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Sunday, March 26, 2023

News24.com | White, Bulls feeling the pressure during horror run: ‘We have to get through this’

Jake White. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

  • Jake White says the Bulls are under pressure following a poor run of results.
  • The Bulls have lost their last four matches across the URC and Currie Cup – all at home. 
  • White is seeking answers for the dip in form. 

Bulls director of rugby Jake White says the union is feeling the pressure following a difficult run of results in both the Currie Cup and the United Rugby Championship (URC).

The Blue Bulls were defeated 41-33 by rivals Western Province at Loftus on Friday night, slipping to their second successive loss of the Currie Cup season after they were hammered 63-15 by the Pumas – also at home – the week before.

In the URC, meanwhile, the Bulls have also suffered back-to-back home losses against the Stormers and Lions, and you have to go back to 6 January to find their last victory, which came away to the Dragons.

While Edgar Marutlulle has been given the Currie Cup head coach responsibilities this season, White was an unexpected guest at Friday’s post-match press conference in Pretoria.

The 59-year-old World Cup-winning coach said he was seeking answers for the union’s slump in form, but he stressed that he – and not Marutlulle – should be held accountable after another loss to WP.

“The reason I’m here as director of rugby is that this week I basically took this group of players. I wanted to use it as an opportunity for next week, so that’s why it would be unfair for Edgar to take on the negativity of this result,” he said.

“It’s no excuse. I’m trying to reflect and be philosophical about where we are as a group.

“We’ve been dominating as a union for the last three seasons – juniors, seniors, Currie Cup, URC final – and I think, what’s gone wrong?

“The answer for me is I was sick in December, and again it’s not an excuse, and I was probably a little bit disconnected from the group.

“I thought changing the group and the team and giving some guys time off last year was just too tough for everybody to back up every week, as much as it worked when we played Wednesdays and Saturdays towards the back end of the year.”

White underwent emergency stomach surgery at the start of 2023 which was far more serious than initially thought.

On the field, he has received some heat for his rotational selection policy that, on Friday, he said might have been a contributing factor to recent results.

“Philosophically, those decisions are mine. If I had been sitting here playing the same group of players every week and we were losing, I’d be saying I should probably be changing the team,” he said.

“When you get into a spiral, either winning or losing, players might not admit that they go into their shells, but I think sometimes it happens. It’s not where we want to be and it’s not what we coach.

“For the first time as a group, we’re probably under pressure, and it’s different pressure to what we have experienced before. We’ve just got to make sure we get through this. It doesn’t mean it’s going to change in one week, but we just have to get through it as a union.

“I’m the guy in charge and I have to make decisions, and most of the decisions I have made over the last couple of years have worked in our favour.

“Maybe me being sick played a role. Maybe, if I was with the team the whole time I would have said ‘forget it’, and played the strongest team every week.

“I’m trying to be philosophical and work out in my head how you go from being so dominant … into looking incohesive and like something is missing.

“I’ve just got to find out what we’re missing and then make sure we get it right.”

It doesn’t get any easier for the Bulls, who travel to Irish giants Ulster next weekend.

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