United Rugby Championship: Bulls boss Jake White happy with squad management but calls for travel solutions

Bulls head coach Jake White claims he has no regrets about how he split his squad between the Champions Cup and the United Rugby Championship.

White rested a large portion for the side’s two Champions Cup matches against Lyon and Exeter Chiefs to target the north-south derby with the Stormers on the URC’s return this weekend.

The Bulls won the clash against Lyon 42-36 at Loftus Versfeld but were put to the sword by Exeter in a 44-14 defeat.

Changed side expected

White says the side facing the Stormers will consist almost completely of the rested stars, with a few who travelled making up the remainder of the matchday 23.

“I left 21 guys back home and two guys that are injured, which makes it 23 who didn’t come on this tour. There will be a couple of guys, as we don’t have enough numbers to not involve some of these guys in the team. But 21 guys at home, so we need probably three or four from this team to get themselves ready for next week,” he said.

“I don’t have any regrets – what we had to do is what we had to do. Bismarck possibly could’ve scored there, Reinhardt Ludwig could’ve scored there and then it could’ve been completely different.

“But what I was most happy about is that in the first 30 minutes, we had enough chances to be in the game. From the 30th to the 40th minutes, they scored 16 points – it was 15-7 for such a long time, and we probably lost the game in the last 10 minutes of the first half. To be 32-7 down is a massive difference at halftime.

“But those are the decisions you have to make, and you can’t be regretful about the fact that there is a plan, and sometimes you lose a battle, but you end up winning the war – and that is basically where we are.”

Travel improvements needed

White hopes SA Rugby and tournament organisers work on improving the impact of travel on players, outlining the difficulties the team faces.

“When you talk to teams coming to South Africa, they fly business class direct overnight from London or from Paris – as the Lyon side did the other night. That in itself is a massive advantage,” White said after the game.

“We’ve got to play the Stormers, who won the URC, next Friday night, and after this game, it’s back on the bus tomorrow for four hours, fly out of Heathrow on Sunday night, arrive midday on Monday… There is no way that any team can then be ready on a Friday – considering that we have to fly to Cape Town on the Thursday as well.

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“I’m sure SA Rugby or the organisers have to look at ways in which they can make it a little more travel-friendly. For a two-metre guy to fly 21 hours via Doha economy class and then sit on a bus for four hours from London Heathrow to Exeter is not really seen as high performance or for a team that wants to win the competition.”