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White still feels the pressure of a final

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Bulls coach jake White has never coached in the Currie Cup before.

Blue Bulls coach Jake White talks to team manager Elias Bennett in the change room after the match. Picture: Blue Bulls

ONE would think that Jake White – now 57, a World Cup winner, and a top coach in South Africa, Australia, France and Japan – has seen and done it all in world rugby.

Not so, though, to the extent that he admits he is feeling the pressure ahead of Saturday’s Currie Cup final between his Bulls team and the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld (3pm kick-off).

You see, White has never coached in the Currie Cup before. After naming his team on Thursday – with Stedman Gans still out with a hamstring niggle and Johan Grobbelaar back at hooker – he pointed out that many top Springboks, like Schalk Burger and Jean de Villiers, never won the golden provincial trophy in their illustrious careers.

And, with the rugby landscape ever changing in this Covid-19 affected globe, who knows when White will have a team in a final again? But he also wants his players to feel the heat, and what it means to win the title.

Bulls’ South African coach Jake White (left) says that he is feeling the pressure – good pressure – ahead of Saturday’s Currie Cup final. Picture: Christiaan Kotze, AFP

“As much as I’ve been lucky enough to have a few finals and play-off games, it never takes away the sort of pressure that comes with it,” the former Bok boss said.

“I can tell you that I feel pressure – the reality is that it’s nice pressure. It’s fantastic. This kind of pressure is what you coach for and what you play for. The guys must enjoy it. You will make mistakes, as finals are like that. It brings the best out of certain players.”

While the Bulls have beaten the Sharks twice this season, Sean Everitt’s men won their last encounter 32-29 in Durban. They will feel that they have a chance of causing what would be an upset by winning at Loftus, and the weather might be in their favour too.

It has been raining heavily in Pretoria this week, and White is expecting the Sharks to stick to their kicking-based game plan.

“When they kick a lot, not only do they not play any rugby in their half, they get an opportunity to get into your half if you don’t retrieve the ball,” White said.

“That’s when guys like (Aphelele) Fassi and (Sbu) Nkosi can go through and create havoc. Curwin (Bosch) literally drops in behind all 14 players and then kicks an up-and-under. The way you can stop it is to make sure that you catch the ball out of the air and don’t give them any turnover ball from those contestables.

“I hope they try and run it, but I can’t see them going away from the things that work for them.”

Bulls (15-1): David Kriel, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Marco Jansen van Vuren, Cornal Hendricks, Stravino Jacobs, Morné Steyn, Ivan van Zyl, Duane Vermeulen (captain), Elrigh Louw, Marco van Staden, Ruan Nortje, Sintu Manjezi, Trevor Nyakane, Johan Grobbelaar, Lizo Gqoboka. Bench: Schalk Erasmus, Jacques van Rooyen, Mornay Smith, Jan Uys, Arno Botha, Embrose Papier, Chris Smith, Marnus Potgieter.

Sharks (15-1): Aphelele Fassi, Sbu Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am (captain), Marius Louw, Yaw Penxe, Curwin Bosch, Jaden Hendriks, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Henco Venter, Dylan Richardson, Ruben van Heerden, JJ van der Mescht, Thomas du Toit, Fez Mbatha, Ox Nche. Bench: Dan Jooste, Mzamo Majola, Michael Kumbirai, Hyron Andrews, Thembelani Bholi, Sanele Nohamba, Jeremy Ward.