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Jake White's Bulls deny 'revenge' for 2021 shock loss a motivation

By Ian Cameron
Dejected Bulls players /Getty

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The Vodacom Bulls deny they are trying to avenge last year’s shock loss to Benetton in the final of the 2021 Rainbow Cup.

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It will be the side’s first meeting since the Italians hammered the Bulls 37 – 8 in the one-off tournament last season, a result few saw coming.

Not only did the side from Treviso get one over their Tshwane-based opponents when they squared up on the final of the Rainbow Cup last year, but a number of their players were involved when the Italy national side recently claimed a historic victory over Wales in the Six Nations.

“A lot has happened in a year,” said Bulls No.8 Marcell Coetzee. “Benetton won fair and square last time, and we took that on the chin.”

“But we’ve grown enormously as a team since then. It was a bit of a reality check for some in terms of the tempo of rugby being played in the Northern Hemisphere, but we’ve grown through that,” Coetzee said ahead of Saturday’s match at Loftus Versfeld. “That experience helped us to prepare well going into the Carling Currie Cup and the Vodacom United Rugby Championship.

“Now we’re excited about not just the prospect of playing the Rainbow Cup champions but also fighting for a spot in the playoffs.

“We know every game is crucial going forward and you can’t afford any slip-ups now. So we want to welcome Benetton to South Africa. We hope they have a good time off the field, but on the field it’s all business.

“After playing only South African teams for two years straight, to go over to Italy and play an overseas side for the first time in a while was a proper rugby lesson for us.

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“I like to think we’re a much better team now and have learned our lessons from that Rainbow Cup Final. But we’re not looking at this weekend motivated by revenge. If you do that you get side-tracked. We’ve grown a lot as a team since then.

“We want to play a certain brand of rugby and we want to apply the lessons we’ve learned. This is the start of a stretch of three games which are must-wins for us in terms of our playoff aspirations, and I’m just looking forward to another opportunity this weekend to play against a quality Benetton side. Last time they had an extremely passionate Italian crowd behind them, so for us to have the Loftus crowd back for this match is going to be very special.”

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Winger Madosh Tambwe says the Bulls are in a different head space in 2022.

“For a lot of us, that Benetton match last year was a new experience. We hadn’t played in front of fans for months, and their fan element was quite a big one for us.

“It was also different opposition for us for the first time in about two years after just playing South African teams. But that’s over now. We’ve now played teams like Leinster and Ulster to name a few. I think we’re in a different head space as a team.

“Now we’re focused on accumulating as many points as possible and making the playoffs. We’re at the business end of this competition, and we’re enjoying that challenge as a team. But at least we now get to give them a bit of a South African taste of what things are like this side.”

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Burger halfback Zak Burger said the team were ready for the challenge ahead of the weekend’s clash.

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“Going up against Benetton, we know that they are a good team. They won the Rainbow Cup last year and they have all of their international players back now from the Six Nations,” said Burger. “So, we know that it is going to be a very hard match and we know that we are going to have to be really clinical and take our chances whenever they are presented to us.

“In this Benetton team, there are about 12 players that were in that Italy team that beat Wales in Cardiff. They are obviously full of confidence now after winning that game. I really think that it’s going to be a very hard battle for us this coming Saturday.”

The 23-year-old scrumhalf has made significant contributions to the Bulls this season. Burger went on to say that the side had learned some valuable lessons from their most recent match, a narrow loss against the DHL Stormers a week ago.

“What we took out from our previous game is that we were not clinical enough.

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“Games like that are like a test match and you have to take your chances whenever you get them. On that day we did not take enough of our chances. We have to be clinical this weekend against a good Benetton side.”

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