United Rugby Championship: Jake White says Bulls’ inexperience proved costly against Stormers

Bulls boss Jake White believes his team’s “inexperience” was a big reason for their 37-27 defeat against the Stormers in their United Rugby Championship (URC) clash in Cape Town on Friday.

The Stormers were full value for their win in front of 30,000 spectators and sealed their victory with three second-half tries in the space of five minutes during the early stages of the second half.

Received criticism over selections

White came in for some criticism when he opted to rest most of his first choice players for their recent Champions Cup matches against Lyon and Exeter Chiefs.

Most of the Bulls‘ senior contingent were recalled for the clash with the Stormers but that plan backfired as the home side blew their arch rivals away with a superb attacking display.

By contrast, the Bulls could not build momentum as they played with 14 men for 20 minutes in the first half after Marco van Staden and Elrigh Louw were yellow carded.

However, they did well to score a try through Nizaam Carr and were level at 13-13 by half-time before those three tries – from Joseph Dweba, Suleiman Hartzenberg and Leolin Zas – soon after the restart knocked the wind out of their sails.

“I think we just showed moments of inexperience,” White said after the match.

“That’s the only disappointing thing I can think of. There was a tap penalty on their line, where we’ve got five or six plays that we run, but we tap the ball and run and knock it on.

“Then I was making a substitution, and we got the timings wrong where there was one less defender on the far side when they ran the ball from the kick-off [for Hartzenberg’s try], so I suppose that was inexperience in that there was a miscommunication.

“It was one of those games. We scored three tries to four, but we looked a little bit inexperienced with some of the actions that we had.”

White pointed out that Stormers head coach John Dobson and his coaching staff were more experienced and that the Stormers boss did not have the same responsibilities as he had in his role as the Pretoria-based outfit’s director of rugby.

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“We’re inexperienced still, and we’re still growing. We’ve got a lot of evolution to do,” he said. “The Stormers are probably the most experienced coaching staff in the whole competition. They’ve been together for eight, 10 years and some of them with the juniors as well.

“John Dobson doesn’t coach Currie Cup. I am the director of rugby. I have to coach and make sure all the juniors, seniors and Currie Cup guys are available to play. If I was only coaching the senior side, then I wouldn’t worry about who was available for the Currie Cup because it wouldn’t be my brief. I think it’s important for people to understand my brief as DoR.

“Western Province didn’t make the play-offs last year in the Currie Cup. Those are decisions I have to make and explain to my board.

“There are 32 games left. Considering some of the Springboks are out with World Cup camps, you’re going to have to box very clever with which teams you want to use and how many players you’re going to use.”

Friday’s defeat was the Bulls’ fourth successive loss to the Stormers in the URC but White did not read too much into that and insisted that his decision to rest his senior players for this clash could only be measured at the end of the season.

Still winless against Stormers in the URC

“We have lost four times to the Stormers in a row, and we haven’t beaten them in this competition yet,” he added. “It was important, and for any team that plays away in these derby games, you want to get the win,” said White.

“We can beat them. You can look at stats any way you want. Since I’ve been at the Bulls, we’ve beaten them more times in Currie Cup, Super Rugby Unlocked and all those games. It just depends on what you want to look at.

“They’re a good team. They’re champions of this tournament. They’ve got experienced players, a coaching staff that has been together for eight years, and it’s a massive advantage when you’re competing at the level we’re competing at.”

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