Jake White's brutally honest take on Leinster after URC baptism of fire
The four South African sides in the newly launched United Rugby Championship were given a rude awakening in terms of the quality of European club and franchise rugby at the weekend.
Saturday’s three matches – involving the Stormers, Bulls and Sharks – were the real eye-openers. The Bulls faced Irish powerhouse Leinster in Dublin and despite some promising moments, were outclassed.
The Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White, a self-professed ‘realist’, said Leinster is the benchmark all South African teams should aspire to.
Despite the disappointment of losing, he spoke of the depth of the Leinster side – with their entire starting backline capped by Ireland and only three of the starting pack not having played Test rugby.
Seven of the eight replacements were also capped by Ireland. They have not only won four European Cup titles, but also eight Celtic League/Pro12/Pro14 titles.
“That is the benchmark we want to get to, that level of skill and depth,” White said of the Irish province.
“You never want to be on the receiving end of a loss,” he said, adding that they have to be realistic of where they have come from.
White said ‘at times’ his team looked really good in Dublin, saying they were up against an ‘international’ team.
“The way they defend and get off the line, you won’t get the pace and opportunities. They are a well-drilled team,” he said of their Irish opposition.
He pointed to an opportunity just before half-time when Madosh Tambwe weaved over on the left, but had his score chalked off for a prior knock-on.
“They are the benchmark,” White said of Leinster, adding: “The side that beats them will win this competition.
“I said to the players, they should not be down on themselves. It is a great yardstick for us and a great learning opportunity.”
He said the fact that they did not drop their heads speaks volumes for the character of the players.
“These are Test players. I have coached at the highest level. They have players with 30 Test caps, we have players with 30 Currie Cup caps.
“If you get the read wrong, they will expose you. They have done it – not only to us, but to the best sides in Europe.
“To become like that, we have to learn from this. That [standard] is where we want to get to.”
White said challenges don’t come much tougher than Leinster in Dublin, with 30,000 people in the stands against a team packed with internationals.
“That is the challenge we have as coaches, not to get down on ourselves.
“What this game highlight is where we want to get to as a team.”
The Bulls next face Connacht in Galway on Friday – followed by encounters with Cardiff and Edinburgh.
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