White: Bulls showed they can ‘win ugly’

Vodacom Bulls coach Jake White said Saturday’s hard-fought win over the Griquas was a good character test for his side after they ground out an opening win.

The Bulls were able to claim a 30-23 victory in their Vodacom Super Rugby Unlocked opener despite turning in an error-filled performance against the Griquas, who were largely expected to struggle against their Springbok-laden opponents.

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It was far from the performance that White’s side had put in a couple of weeks ago in their Super Fan Saturday victory over the Sharks, where they strode to a 49-28 win, scoring seven tries in the process.

By contrast, the Bulls were put under immense breakdown pressure by a heroic defensive effort from the Griquas, who had led twice in the match, before a penalty try and score from Arno Botha decided the contest.

‘Yeah, it was a good character test for us,’ White told the media after the game. ‘People expected the game to be a lot easier than it was and you’ve got to give credit to Griquas for the way they stopped our momentum, the way they chased and showed fighting spirit and the way they played.

‘If I could change things, I probably would’ve liked to have this result against the Sharks two weeks ago and bag five log points tonight against Griquas. Sometimes, when you’re under pressure, you see different things. It’s also a period for me where I’m still learning about my players. Yes, I know what they can do but under pressure I need to see how they react.’

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White said that he was pleased with his side’s response to falling behind twice to the visitors and added that they focused on being more direct in the second half rather than throwing the ball around as they did in the first period.

‘With four minutes to go before half-time and 3-10 down, we suddenly made it 10-10. Scoring before half-time and after it or at the death, those are championship moments,’ White said. ‘I’m still determining how the players fit in, what their attitudes are like and how they add to combinations.

‘It’s our second game together but I’m really happy how the players came back. They showed they can win games when it’s not easy going. You’ve got to win ugly too. At half-time I told the guys to harness their experience. We also agreed that we simply needed to be a bit more direct.

‘We played a bit end-to-end at times. In fact, at some stages it even felt like we were playing touchies. We saw with the bursts by Marco van Staden, Elrigh Louw and Jason Jenkins that it was the right way to go by being direct.’

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Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

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Dylan Jack