South Africa | Jake White: Bulls bedevilled by small margins but we'll get there

Last week's narrow defeat to the Cheetahs has proven a sobering reminder to the Bulls that the margins between Jake White's Loftus revolution gaining traction and stalling is alarmingly small.

While it's still early doors in Super Rugby Unlocked, the men in blue haven't exactly hit their straps to date, an almost perverse anti-climax after the heady heights of Super Fan Saturday, where they beat the Sharks 49-28 in a warm-up match.

The key here, however, is to remember that the Bulls haven't been underwhelming, they've just struggled to turn periods of dominance into points.

It's a trend they'd want to summarily stop in Saturday's re-match with the Durbanites at home.

"We're still very young in terms of the evolution of our group," said White, referring to his purposeful re-working of his squad during lockdown that included 13 new signings and 19 departees.

"It doesn't mean that we perceive that as negative or use it as an excuse, we want to hit the ground running."

In hindsight, the Bulls probably did peak - relatively speaking of course - during the pre-season.


Bulls15 David Kriel, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Jacques van RooyenSubstitutes: 16 Joe van Zyl, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Marco Jansen van VurenSharks15 Manie Libbok, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Marius Louw, 11 Werner Kok, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Phepsi Buthelezi, 6 James Venter, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Dylan Richardson, 1 Ox NcheSubstitutes: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 JJ van der Mescht, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Grant Williams, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Yaw Penxe

"We played really well in that Sharks game. If anything, we probably got a bit seduced by how easy it was in that game," said White.

"After that we came up against stiff opposition with line-speed and we didn't adapt well enough.

"However, had (Chris Smith's conversion against the Cheetahs) gone over last week, the score would've been 19-all or if we'd gotten the penalty for the Cheetahs tighthead playing the ball on the ground, the score could've read 20-19.

"Then suddenly everyone's praising a winning start to the competition and everyone's happy. We're little margins away but we'll get it right."

As a result, the biggest item on White's wish list for a game that's not expected to be as freewheeling as the previous meeting is simple accuracy.

"What I’d really like to see is just a little bit more cohesion. To be fair to the players, we’ve made changes, and we would like to give some players the chance to train well. But we also don’t want to lose the fact that these players haven’t played much rugby together," he said.

"The most important thing for me this weekend is to try to get some cohesion, some rhythm in both our attack and our defence. We are probably more at a disadvantage than anyone else because we have such a new group – the other teams have been together longer. 

"We understand that and it’s not an excuse, but we have to try as hard as we can to get some sort of rhythm."

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