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Monday, November 28, 2022

Jake White wants ‘wave after wave’ on attack from Bulls instead of kicking ball away

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Cape Town — The Bulls made a number of unforced errors on attack, but coach Jake White doesn’t want his team to go into their shells because of that.

White felt that the Bulls left some points on the field in their 31-15 United Rugby Championship victory over the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday, but was glad that his players kept probing on attack to unlock the defence.

The best example of their approach was the try scored by Cornal Hendricks, which was initially sparked by a counter-attack on their own in-goal area, and ended in the No 14 diving over in the right-hand corner.

The name of the game for White and the Bulls this season is to keep the ball alive, and it is a goal that they want to edge away at throughout in their pursuit of the title.

One of the mitigating circumstances in that regard was the number of new faces in the back-three, where Wandisile Simelane and Sbu Nkosi were making their Bulls debuts, and everyone wasn’t always on the same wavelength in their decision-making and execution.

“Over time, it will come right – the ability to transfer pressure into points. Often we had line-breaks, and then we made a pass into touch, or one offload before we had to … A couple of times we ran into the midfield when we could have gone around them,” White said.

“As we create those pictures more and more in pressure situations, I feel our players will be good enough. It’s the first time we played that backline, and the combinations were a bit different – purposely as well.

“I know where Kurt-Lee (Arendse) and Canan (Moodie) can play, I know where (Johan) Goosen can play … I’ve got to try and get a backline together that can be adaptable in different positions. That will come over time, and it’s not going to be cohesive from day one.”

The Lions managed to get good continuity on attack with their offloading game, and were rewarded through centre Marius Louw’s try after taking the ball through a number of phases.

But White was pleased with his team’s defensive structure, where they didn’t commit too many numbers to the breakdown and tried to double-tackle the Lions ball-carriers.

“One area I was really happy about is the way we defended, and the shape in our defence. Often we put them under pressure because we had numbers on our feet, going at them,” he said.

“They knocked a few balls on based on the fact that there was pressure from the visual pictures they were getting defensively.

“I think the way we changed our defence – and I’m not going to give into too much detail about that – changed in parts of the field and in parts of our game, put them under pressure as well.”

But it is the pursuit of excellence in attack that is driving White. Scrumhalf Embrose Papier added good energy from the base, flyhalf Chris Smith was as solid as ever, and workhorses Hendricks and Lionel Mapoe never stopped running.

White, though, will be eager to see fullback Simelane and wing Nkosi come into their own over the next few weeks, as they are lethal strike-runners when in synergy with the rest of the backline – starting with Saturday’s clash against Edinburgh at Loftus Versfeld (2.30pm kick-off).

“Attack-wise, you always want the perfect attacking game, and I thought we started off really well and our backs looked like the cohesion was good enough,” the former Springbok coach said.

“As the game unfolded, at one point we conceded six penalties in eight minutes in the second part of the first half, and that just creates pressure. A lot of those penalties were forced by the fact that we overplayed in our own half.

“But saying that, I don’t want us to go into kicking the ball down the field. I want us to be comfortable that we can keep the ball, and I want us to be good enough to out-work people in the first half of the game, to get rewards in the second half of the game.

“One thing I learnt from Leinster is that they don’t necessarily open you up early, but the point is, going and going and going and going, and just understanding that pressure – like wave after wave – is the thing that creates the uncertainty at the back-end of the game.”



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