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Ken Borland



SA rugby forever bonded with Kitch’s ‘high or low road’, but Jake says it’s too early for that 0

Posted on September 05, 2023 by Ken

South African rugby will forever be bonded with Kitch Christie’s famous ‘high road or the low road’ scenario before the 1995 World Cup triumph, but Bulls coach Jake White says it is still too early to consider his team as being at a similar crossroads ahead of their crunch United Rugby Championship match against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.

Coach Christie said it was crucial that the Springboks beat defending champions and favourites Australia in the opening match of the 1995 World Cup and take the “high road” through the tournament; defeat would mean the “low road” requiring victories over England and New Zealand before the final. South Africa pulled off a sensational 28-18 win, setting them up for an unbeaten run through the tournament they hosted.

The Bulls, having lost last weekend to the Stormers in Cape Town, are now five points behind the defending champions in the South African Shield, having played an extra game. If the Sharks beat the Bulls with a bonus point at Kings Park, then they could be within another bonus-point win of the Pretoria side, with a game in hand.

But White, who has called the late Christie his mentor, is not stressing about the log at this stage.

“We’re not at the high road or low road point yet and it’s not a do-or-die game,” White said on Friday. “It’s still so open, although we do know Leinster are the pace-setters, they always have been.

“We beat the Sharks with a bonus point at Loftus, and if the Sharks beat the Stormers twice and we win this weekend, then we would be favourites again to win the conference.

“There are still a lot of permutations between now and the end of the tournament, and not every team will win every game at home. Winning a couple of matches away is the premium.

“But we will be up against one of the strongest provincial sides, although one thing I enjoy about the URC is that a team can beat anyone on any given Saturday. That’s exciting,” White said.

Nine current Springboks is what the Bulls, who will field Johan Goosen at fullback and Chris Smith at flyhalf, are up against. The combination of Smith and Goosen played in the pivotal game-management positions when the Bulls beat the Sharks 40-27 at Loftus Versfeld at the end of October, which is why White has made that selection again.

“The last time we played the Sharks we did that and it worked well, and we didn’t have Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie then,” White said. “It means we have two kickers and two passers and can move the ball away from flyhalf.

“I’ve heard it might rain in Durban too and the Sharks don’t play much in their own half, they have a good kicking game and Makazole Mapimpi is very good in the air.

“But it’s not just a reaction to them, it worked for us at home and it gives us two guys who understand how we want to play. It’s important that Bernard van der Linde can also kick with both feet at scrumhalf,” White said.

Bulls:Johan Goosen, Canan Moodie, Cornal Hendricks, Harold Vorster, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Chris Smith, Bernard van der Linde, Elrigh Louw, Cyle Brink, Marco Van Staden, Ruan Nortje (c), Ruan Vermaak, Mornay Smith, Johan Grobbelaar, Simphiwe Matanzima. Bench -Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Gerhard Steenekamp, Sebastian Lombard, Janko Swanepoel, Nizaam Carr, Embrose Papier, Lionel Mapoe, David Kriel.

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