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Jake White fronts the press over Bulls 'B-team' selection controversy

By Jan De Koning
Vodacom Bulls head coach Jake White before the United Rugby Championship match between Leinster and Vodacom Bulls at the RDS Arena in Dublin. (Photo By Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White pushed back strongly against suggestions he is deliberately fielding a ‘B-Team’ in the Champions Cup quarterfinal face-off against Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday.

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None of the Springboks that featured in last week’s 59-19 Round of 16 demolition of Lyon made the trip to England.

Willie le Roux, Canan Moodie, David Kriel, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Johan Goosen, Embrose Papier, Elrigh Louw, Marcell Coetzee, Ruan Vermaak, Wilco Louw, Johan Grobbelaar and Gerhard Steenekamp all stayed at home.

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Jake Whites previews the Bulls’ face-off with Northampton Saints

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Jake Whites previews the Bulls’ face-off with Northampton Saints

White made it clear he was not leaning towards focusing on the United Rugby Championship and over the more distinguished Champions Cup.

The trip to England comes in the wake of two tough matches – a humbling 14-47 loss to Leinster in Dublin and a 59-19 Champions Cup win over Lyon in Pretoria last weekend.

Defending URC champions Munster – who beat the Stormers in the Final in Cape Town last year – arrive for a Round 14 crunch match at Loftus Versfeld next week, as the Bulls go into a vital period of URC fixtures.

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They host Munster and Ospreys, then European semifinals (if they win this weekend), back to hosting Glasgow Warriors and Benetton in the URC.

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The Champions Cup Final is scheduled for May 25, before the Bulls travel to Durban to face the Sharks before the final round of URC league action.

White said the selection for the encounter with the Saints is based on two factors – the need to rotate more (a mistake he admittedly made last year) and medical advice.

“I have said it over and over again, last season I did not rotate my squad enough and it came back to bite me in the end,” an indignant White said.

“It has nothing to do with Munster,” he continued, adding: “It has to do with where we are as a group.”

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White pointed out that six players in the teams to face Saints had played in three Soper Rugby Finals.

Another eight had featured in the team that beat Leinster in Dublin in the semifinal of the inaugural tournament in 2022.

Stravino Jacobs and Cameron Hanekom make their return from injury.

“They were the first-choice starters in their positions before they were injured,” the Bulls boss said.

“Then there is rotation, but more importantly, I received medical advice that some players with ‘bumps and bruises’ after the last trip [to Dublin] and the massive game against Lyon would be an enormous risk on a trip abroad.

“They would unlikely be ready for Saturday and we would be at risk with players who can’t start.

“You can’t have guys 50-50 [to play] when you travel away from home and not being ready by Saturday.

“It would be impossible to replace them.

“It is the best team we can field.

“I am confident and looking forward to seeing how they perform.”

Bulls: 15 Devon Williams, 14 Sebastian de Klerk, 13 Henry Immelman, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Izak Burger, 8 Cameron Hanekom, 7 Mpilo Gumede, 6 Nizaam Carr (captain), 5 JF van Heerden, 4 Janko Swanepoel, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Simphiwe Matanzima.
Replacements: 16 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Francois Klopper, 19 Merwe Olivier, 20 Reinhardt Ludwig, 21 Keagan Johannes, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 Cornal Hendricks.

Date: Saturday, April 13
Venue: Franklin’s Gardens
Kick-off: 20.00 (21.00 SA time; 19.00 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Ludovic Cayre (France), Luc Ramos (France)
TMO: Thomas Charabas (France)

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D
Diarmid 10 hours ago
Players and referees must cut out worrying trend in rugby – Andy Goode

The guy had just beasted himself in a scrum and the blood hadn't yet returned to his head when he was pushed into a team mate. He took his weight off his left foot precisely at the moment he was shoved and dropped to the floor when seemingly trying to avoid stepping on Hyron Andrews’ foot. I don't think he was trying to milk a penalty, I think he was knackered but still switched on enough to avoid planting 120kgs on the dorsum of his second row’s foot. To effectively “police” such incidents with a (noble) view to eradicating play acting in rugby, yet more video would need to be reviewed in real time, which is not in the interest of the game as a sporting spectacle. I would far rather see Farrell penalised for interfering with the refereeing of the game. Perhaps he was right to be frustrated, he was much closer to the action than the only camera angle I've seen, however his vocal objection to Rodd’s falling over doesn't legitimately fall into the captain's role as the mouthpiece of his team - he should have kept his frustration to himself, that's one of the pillars of rugby union. I appreciate that he was within his rights to communicate with the referee as captain but he didn't do this, he moaned and attempted to sway the decision by directing his complaint to the player rather than the ref. Rugby needs to look closely at the message it wants to send to young players and amateur grassroots rugby. The best way to do this would be to apply the laws as they are written and edit them where the written laws no longer apply. If this means deleting laws such as ‘the put in to the scrum must be straight”, so be it. Likewise, if it is no longer necessary to respect the referee’s decision without questioning it or pre-emptively attempting to sway it (including by diving or by shouting and gesticulating) then this behaviour should be embraced (and commercialised). Otherwise any reference to respecting the referee should be deleted from the laws. You have to start somewhere to maintain the values of rugby and the best place to start would be giving a penalty and a warning against the offending player, followed by a yellow card the next time. People like Farrell would rapidly learn to keep quiet and let their skills do the talking.

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