Bulls coach Jake White seemed afraid before their match against Leinster that his team and their fans might not realise how daunting their game against the dominant side in the Pro14 competition was going to be, but the reality of what awaits South Africa’s champions was rammed home as they were hammered 31-3 at the Aviva Stadium.
On a miserable Saturday for South African rugby on which the Springboks, Stormers, Bulls and Sharks all lost, the quality, tempo and precision of the European game was on full display, even though those sides are just starting their season.
And Leinster look set to be Europe’s flagbearers once again, judging by their polished performance against the Bulls.
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“I’m not that disappointed in our performance to be honest. Leinster are the benchmark in European rugby and I’m a realist,” White said.
“That’s the kind of pressure we’re going to have to get used to week in, week out. To give some perspective, Jamison Gibson-Park comes off the bench at scrumhalf and he’s an international. We need to get to that level of skill and depth.
“We need to be realistic where we are and where Leinster are currently. We can’t be down, it was a great learning opportunity even though it wasn’t pleasant.
“Leinster have Test players who have been together for a long time, guys with 30 Test caps against players with 30 Currie Cup caps. The bottom line is that they exposed us and they have done it to some of the best sides in Europe.”
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The Bulls started the match in terrible fashion, trailing 17-0 after just 13 minutes, but they had opportunities to close the gap in the first half, which they failed to take.
“We kicked direct into touch at the start, we gave away a penalty at the scrum, a lineout and then we’re 10-0 down in the first seven minutes,” White said.
“We were under pressure the whole time and it could easily have become 50 points as they ran away with it. But if we could have gone to 10-17 then we would have been a bit more confident.
“I’m proud of how we stuck to it, we showed our resilience and we looked like we held our own in certain passages. That’s the positive – for long periods we stayed competitive.
“But the challenge is not to get down on ourselves, we have to back ourselves even though things worked easily in the Currie Cup, but we weren’t playing against international opposition.”