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Ken Borland

Daunting challenge for Bulls again as they leave their families & comfort zones

Posted on July 13, 2022 by Ken

Last September when the Bulls left Pretoria, their families and home comforts, and their support structures to head for Dublin and take on European powerhouses Leinster in their opening United Rugby Championship match it was with trepidation as they stepped into a daunting unknown.

Now when they head once more to the Irish capital for their semi-final against the same team on Friday night, they know more about the challenges they face but also about themselves and how much they have grown in the last eight-and-a-half months.

Coach Jake White said whether or not his underdogs manage to beat the tournament favourites, the game will be a valuable measurement of just how far the team have come and how much further they still have to go.

“We will see how good we are on Friday night, whether we have grown or not,” White said after their thrilling quarterfinal win over the Sharks. “I like to think that we are a better side.

“But it’s a chance to measure ourselves against an international-strength side, a team that has dominated Europe. You want to end a tournament playing your best rugby.

“Leinster were in rampant form in their quarterfinal after their Champions Cup disappointment last week. Friday night is a chance for the players to measure themselves against international players.

“This group has only been together for two years and we had two 19-year-olds in our 23-man squad. They are playing beyond their ages and their time together as a group,” White said.

Leinster stated their determination to win the inaugural URC, having won the last four editions of the Pro14 that preceded it, with chilling efficiency at the weekend as they destroyed Glasgow Warriors 76-14.

They will go into Friday night’s semi-final with confidence at a high, physically fresh and with home advantage. The Bulls will arrive in Dublin with a short week and bodies still battered from their gruelling tussle with the Sharks and the short turnaround thereafter.

In terms of experience, Leinster will go into the game with a massive advantage in terms of Test caps.

And White has stressed the most important part of their challenge on Friday night will be to start well, to not allow Leinster to play with the amount of possession they gifted the Sharks in the opening 10 minutes.

“Leinster’s front row probably has more international caps than our entire team, but the one thing I did see in La Rochelle’s Champions Cup final win was that you’ve got to hold them in the first half,” White said.

“You’ve got to keep them to a reasonable score at halftime. Leinster score the most points of all URC teams in the first 20 minutes of games. But in that final they took one or two bad options.

“So they are beatable but we have to not let them start well. You cannot play catch-up against a very good team like that, and if we give Leinster the ball for the first 10 minutes then they will not miss out on those opportunities,” White said.

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