Masterminds: Jake White (Bulls) and Sean Everitt (Sharks). (Photo by Darren Stewart/Gallo Images)
- Jake White and Sean Everitt both believe the United Rugby Championship comes at the right time for the South African franchises.
- For the ever improving Bulls, there’s a particular desire to show off their product against international opposition after learning many lessons from their Rainbow Cup final defeat.
- The Sharks are excited because it’s a new “environment”, while White says playing locally too much can breed complacency.
Jake White and Sean Everitt, mentors of the Bulls and Sharks respectively, both believe the start of the inaugural United Rugby Championship (URC) comes at the exact right time for South Africa’s franchises.
The new tournament, conceived after SA’s Super Rugby expulsion last year, begins on 24 September.
The local game has been starved of international competition for almost exactly a year now, the only anomaly being the Bulls’ week-long excursion to Treviso in Italy to face Benetton in the Rainbow Cup final.
In that time, there have been two Currie Cups, Super Rugby Unlocked, Rainbow Cup SA and a preparation series played.
It’s now time for South African outfits to spread their wings again.
“One gets into a bit of a comfort zone when you know you’re playing the same teams regularly. You’re playing at the same empty stadiums and train at the same facilities,” White said after his Bulls troops stampeded their way to a second Currie Cup title in a calendar year.
“Now it’s different. We’re off to Leinster and then Connacht, the type of different teams that we’re not used to currently. We’ll savour our Currie Cup victory and then it’s down to business again. I definitely need to bounce off a few ideas to my colleagues.”
The Bulls are in need of new opposition as their depth and their increasingly adaptable style of play “deserves” better scrutiny.
As White mentioned, they learnt a lot from a comprehensive drubbing in the Rainbow Cup showpiece against unfancied Benetton, which exposed some of the effects of SA’s rugby “isolation”.
“We were lucky to get the opportunity to play against the Italian side a few months ago. It was a massive learning curve for us,” he said.
“It was a wake-up call. We were the first to admit that we simply weren’t good enough that day. A lot of things were different that week and it’s not an excuse.
“There were crowds and different training facilities. It requires you to be more adaptable.”
It’s debatable whether the Sharks – after being hammered 10-44 in last weekend’s final – go into the URC as confident as the Bulls, but with some reinforcements arriving and a reputation for enjoying tours, they might just flourish.
“It’s going to be a difficult challenge for all us South African teams, but we’re looking forward to it,” said Everitt.
“There will be new energy, it’s a new competition. We usually travel quite well, I’m confident it will spur us on to improve our performances.”
All four sides will travel to Europe later this week to complete ten-day quarantines before commencing their four-week window of fixtures.
They are allowed full contact training in their respective facilities.