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Ken Borland

Advent of Currie Cup has played role, but Jake was never going to change much

Posted on February 28, 2022 by Ken

The advent of the Currie Cup competition running concurrently with the United Rugby Championship has played a role, but Bulls coach Jake White was never going to change much for his team’s derby against the Lions at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, given how thoroughly they outplayed their neighbours last weekend at Ellis Park.

With the Bulls also having a midweek Currie Cup game, there has been little crossover between the two teams and the only change in personnel has been Cornal Hendricks replacing David Kriel on the bench. Zak Burger is now the starting scrumhalf with Embrose Papier coming off the bench.

It is a stark contrast to the Lions, who will bring a much-changed team to Pretoria with half-a-dozen big names missing.

“I have confidence in these players, the team is strong enough to win if we play well,” White said on Friday. “Victory is not a formality though, there are standards we have to meet and we have to make sure we play well again.

“The Lions will be different though and we expect they will play better. Their coach and captain has given them the gears and they have made several changes.

“That’s a massive message and clearly they’re telling their players that if they don’t play well, don’t pull their finger out, then they won’t get picked.

“We’ve had to field two teams this week, so circumstances have also played a part in us keeping the same group together. But I prefer our model, keep the combinations playing together so you get cohesion,” White said.

Beating the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld has been an impassable mountain for almost all visitors over the last couple of years, until the last fortnight, with the home side tasting defeat to the Stormers in the URC and then to the Free State Cheetahs in the Currie Cup.

“We don’t want to lose anywhere and there is internal pressure around that of course, that’s the way it should be,” White said. “But there’s no external pressure, rugby is meant to be fun and we’ve got to enjoy it.

“If it had been a do-or-die match in midweek against the Cheetahs then maybe we would have fielded our strongest team, but we are mindful of our end goal.

“In 1996, Super Rugby’s first season, the Canterbury Crusaders finished last and they became the most dominant team in the competition. One of the key attributes of a succesful team is understanding and synergy between the players.

“Being a bomb detonator – now that’s a pressure job!” White quipped.

He will be hoping his team bring the same explosiveness they produced at Ellis Park last weekend to avoid another bombshell upset at home.

Bulls team:Kurt-Lee Arendse, Canan Moodie, Lionel Mapoe, Harold Vorster, Madosh Tambwe, Morné Steyn, Zak Burger; Elrigh Louw, Arno Botha, Marcell Coetzee (CAPT), Ruan Nortje, Walt Steenkamp, Jacques van Rooyen, Johan Grobbelaar, Simphiwe Matanzima. IMPACT-Bismarck du Plessis, Lizo Gqoboka, Robert Hunt, Janko Swanepoel, Muller Uys; Embrose Papier, Chris Smith, Cornal Hendricks.

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