The Bulls players celebrate after their Super Rugby Unlocked match against the Pumas (Gallo Images)
- Jake White isn’t surprised by the Bulls’ Super Rugby Unlocked success because he to a large extent expects it from a franchise of its pedigree.
- The former Springbok coach believes his team is a “sleeping giant”, the Liverpool of rugby.
- But he admits the Currie Cup will test the Bulls’ ability to win against top opposition away from home, a skill they’ll have to cultivate in next year’s PRO16.
The Bulls’ immediate success under him hasn’t surprised Jake White in the slightest as the Loftus franchise “is one of the best in the world”.
A hard-fought 21-5 victory over the Pumas on Saturday confirmed the men from Pretoria as Super Rugby Unlocked champions, putting them in an ideal position to potentially become Currie Cup conquerors too.
“I’m very happy with this title win,” said White, who joined the Bulls as its director of rugby back in March a week after the sport’s suspension due to Covid-19.
“I signed at this franchise on the basis that it’s a sleeping giant. The Bulls are the Liverpool or Manchester United of rugby.
“When you look at the teams around the world, I’d say we’re up there with the best. At the end of the day, if you went to the top five or six rugby clubs in the world, the Bulls would be one of them.”
Despite it’s relative lack of prestige, winning the Unlocked tournament still means the Bulls have broken a trophy drought of ten years.
“I don’t want to take away anything from what we’ve achieved previously, but I’m pretty sure the legends of the glory years will still be very happy to see that there’s at least a new group of players that are winning something,” said White.
“At the end of the day, winning titles are part of our work. We get judged on results. I’m so happy and also grateful to be back in South Africa, coaching South African players.”
The upcoming Currie Cup, which commences next week, will, however, be a key testing ground for the Bulls’ resurgence as they’ll now have to navigate a tournament that will see them playing four tough away fixtures to Western Province, the Sharks, Griquas and Pumas.
“There’s probably a view that the Currie Cup allows for the exploration of depth. It’s a question I’m even asking myself,” said White.
“I’m coach for the next three years, so I have a long-term plan that I need to keep in mind. From March next year, we’re playing in Europe, where we’ll face teams like Leinster, Glasgow and Munster.
“For the next three weeks, we’re playing our three nearest competitors. We’re going to have to show now that we can perform on the road because that’s what’s lying ahead for us in the longer-term future too.”