Irish giants Leinster ran in four tries and played with the kind of intensity, efficiency and organisation that the Bulls are hoping to achieve one day.
CAPE TOWN – “DON’T be down on yourselves.” That was the message from Bulls coach Jake White to his players immediately after they copped a 31-3 drubbing at the hands of Leinster in the United Rugby Championship on Saturday night.
The Irish giants ran in four tries and played with the kind of intensity, efficiency and organisation that the South Africans are hoping to achieve one day.
But at the moment, the Currie Cup champions are some way off that level of performance, even though White felt that the Bulls had a few opportunities that they were unable to take at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
In fact, when asked if he was disappointed by the performance as much as the result, the former Springbok coach said: “No, to be really honest. Obviously disappointed because you don’t win. But I’m also a realist. That is the benchmark of European rugby.
“I just said to the players in the change-room now – they go from Six Nations into autumn internationals, into Toulouse away, Toulon away … Knockout game against Saracens, Racing Metro. That’s the kind of pressure they have week-in and week-out.
“So, I just look at their team again, and you just put things into perspective: they get a (scrumhalf Jamison) Gibson-Park coming off the bench as a replacement, and he’s an international. That is what we want to get to, that level of skill and depth.
“As a coach, you never want to be on the receiving end of a loss, but one has to be a bit realistic of where we are, where we’ve come from, and where Leinster are now currently.”
The Bulls fought back from a 17-0 deficit within 13 minutes in the second quarter of the first half, and thought they had scored when wing Madosh Tambwe finished off a terrific passage of play from the visitors that included a number of offloads in the tackle.
But the South Africans’ touchdown was ruled out by the TMO, due to a knock-on by No.8 Elrigh Louw, while they also squandered an attacking line-out before halftime.
“At times, we looked really good. You must remember that you are talking about an international side, so you’re not going to get space and all the opportunities (that you’d normally get),” White said.
“The way they defend off the line … they are a well-drilled team. So, I don’t think we looked pedestrian at all. When we had our chances … That moment just before halftime, when we had a disallowed try, all of a sudden it’s 17-10. Maybe we give ourselves just a little bit more hope in the second half.
“They are a good side. They are the benchmark. The team that beats them will win this competition. If you don’t beat them, they will win the competition – it’s as simple as that.
“They’ve won it more times than anybody, and as I said to the players, don’t be down on yourself. It’s a great measurement for us, and a great learning opportunity for us. It’s not pleasant, but I wouldn’t say we were pedestrian at all – there were times we played quite nice rugby.
“For big patches of time we defended well, and we kept them out, which speaks volumes to the fact that we didn’t drop our heads.”
The Bulls’ next game on their four-match tour is against another Irish outfit, Connacht, in Galway on Friday night (8.35pm SA time kickoff).