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Ken Borland

Bulls want to play at tempo that’s so high that Sharks battle to match it

Posted on March 24, 2022 by Ken

Coach Jake White says the Bulls want to play at a tempo that is so high that the Sharks will battle to match it at altitude in their United Rugby Championship derby at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

White went on to accuse the Sharks of wanting to slow the game down so much that they have the lowest ball-in-play time of all their South African opposition. Sharks coach Sean Everitt certainly begs to differ and said altitude and conditioning were not going to trouble his team.

With the coaches crossing swords before the game, the Sharks desperate to bounce back from a draw and a loss, and the Bulls eager to not lose another home game, Saturday’s clash is bound to be a feisty affair.

“I hope the referee [AJ Jacobs] allows us to play a bit quicker,” White said on Friday. “In the last couple of weeks the games have been a bit slow. We want to play quick rugby at altitude.

“It will be very difficult for the Sharks to play at a high tempo at altitude and we want to fatigue them. If altitude was not so important, then most Olympic athletes would go train at sea-level and not at altitude.

“Science has proven the effects of altitude and the Sharks kick a lot, they play very slowly and they have the longest breaks between plays of all our opposition. We would be very happy if it was a quick game.

“We’re striving for 36 minutes ball-in-play and we want to get the tempo going. Hopefully this is the game where everything clicks for us,” White said.

Everitt pointed to the Currie Cup final in January 2021, when they went toe-to-toe with the Bulls before finally succumbing to an extra-time try, as proof of their ability to handle the altitude and tempo.

“Altitude is a mental thing. Twelve months ago we played for 100 minutes up there and it was just one set-piece at the death and our goalkicking that cost us. We should have won in 80 minutes. We don’t talk about altitude anymore,” Everitt said.

But White certainly does not view the Sharks as being easy to beat.

“The Sharks have pushed us the hardest of all the South African teams and they beat us in our last meeting in Durban. So I expect the same, fired-up performance from them.

“They have lots of Springboks, the list goes on and on of their incumbent Springboks. They are still the form team and the strongest on paper. I expect a great challenge.

“They will be playing for all they are worth. It’s going to be like a final because we can’t afford to lose again at home and they also lost last weekend. So I expect the two teams to have a really full go at each other,” White said.

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