White delighted after awakening sleeping giant

Vodacom Bulls coach Jake White has expressed his happiness after his side claimed the Super Rugby Unlocked title on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.

The Bulls sealed their first trophy win under White after beating the Pumas in a hard-fought scrappy match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday afternoon.

It was just reward for the Bulls, given the amount of hard work that has gone on behind the scenes in Pretoria since their frankly embarrassing 2020 Super Rugby season back in March, when the team was able to win only one of their six matches before the season was halted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since then, the Bulls have undergone a revolution, bringing in a host of new players and coaches, including White, who was backed as the franchise’s head coach and director of rugby to make the necessary changes to get the team back on track.

Speaking to the media following their victory over the Pumas, White said he was delighted that they had managed to claim a title.

‘It is fantastic. As I said, not just for me, but for the union,’ White said. ‘This union has not won any senior trophies for over 10 years, even though we have won lots of junior trophies.

‘As you can imagine there is a lot of excitement now, a lot of relief as well on the basis that we have the first round done and dusted. We are very, very happy that we can make the Bulls supporters proud again.’

While other franchises are looking at the domestic season – made up of Super Rugby Unlocked and the Currie Cup – as a whole, White said his team had decided to set their sights firmly on Super Rugby before switching to the Currie Cup.

‘We did speak about it. There is an opportunity this year to win two trophies. I spoke to the media the other day and said that every team knew there was an opportunity to win two trophies. Everybody knew at the beginning of the competition that at the end of the first round there is a trophy to be won.

‘We were fully aware of the fact that if we win this trophy, the Bulls will be the only South African franchise that has won Super Rugby. We didn’t want to allow another team in the country to win Super Rugby. I am fully aware as well that it isn’t the full-fledged Super Rugby, but the point is that if you go back to where we were six or seven months ago, I don’t think anybody would have given us a chance to win this trophy.

‘There is a massive amount of happiness, relief and confidence we get out of winning this. A lot of these guys have waited a long time. Winning creates a habit. Now we know the feeling and hopefully when we get back in training on Monday we can go for the second round, which is another opportunity.’

White added that he also took personal satisfaction out of guiding the Bulls to the title.

‘I signed for this franchise on the basis that they are a sleeping giant. This is one of the best franchises in the world. This is the Liverpool or the Manchester United of rugby. You look at the teams around the world, the Bulls would be up there. At the end of the day, if you went to one of the top six or seven rugby clubs in the world, this would be one of them.

‘This was one of the reasons I came here, I wanted to get this union to win some silverware. I don’t take anything away from what we have done in the past, but even the guys who played in those glory years would be very happy to see that there is at least a young group of players who are winning something.’

Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

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Dylan Jack