Bulls escape sanction for Champions Cup controversy as Jake White’s EPCR revelation confirmed – report

Colin Newboult
Champions Cup Rugby, Bristol Bears versus Vodacom Bulls; Jake White Head of Rugby for Vodacom Bulls before kick off .

Bulls director of rugby Jake White.

The Bulls and their boss, Jake White, will not be punished for fielding a weakened team in the Champions Cup, according to a report in the South African media.

European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) were not impressed after the Pretoria-based outfit sent an understrength squad for the quarter-final clash at Northampton Saints.

White was heavily criticised in the build-up for the selection call and his makeshift side suffered a heavy defeat, going down 59-22 to end their Champions Cup hopes.

Potential investigation

Irrespective of the result in the last-eight, there was talk of the governing body opening an investigation into the Bulls, but they have decided against that move according to Rapport.

Both the franchise and SA Rugby received a letter asking them to explain their decision to rotate heavily for such a huge clash, but it has not been taken any further than that.

“I suspect the EPCR just wanted to give the Bulls a slap on the wrist and nothing more,” an unnamed rugby boss told Rapport.

Jake White: ‘Unfair’ Champions Cup scheduling to be rectified after bigwigs ‘privately agree’

White’s defence for fielding a weakened squad and leaving 11 Springboks at home was based on player welfare, which included the knocks they had taken in previous weeks.

The Bulls therefore felt they had the necessary medical evidence to mount a firm challenge to EPCR should the governing body open a formal investigation.

“Contrary to popular opinion, not for a second was I trying to undermine the competition’s integrity. I want to make that clear,” White wrote in a RugbyPass column last week.

“I didn’t put all that work in in the pool stages just to throw it away. In my 31 years of coaching, I have never entered a competition I haven’t wanted to win.

“I understand there was a lot of talk about us fielding a Bulls B-team. I get it. I understand people want to see the best players play all the time.

“In principle I agree with that, however, if you want to see the best players all the time, something in the game’s calendar has to give.”

Changing the schedule

The gruelling schedule, which saw them face Lyon in South Africa in the round-of-16 before travelling to England, certainly hampered the Bulls.

White revealed on Friday that EPCR intend to introduce an extra week’s rest between the two knockout stages in light of the generally lopsided quarter-finals and Rapport confirmed that it is in the pipeline.

“After the results on the weekend, privately, it was agreed that the knockouts need a week’s break in between round 16 and the last-eight. From a logistical point of view, I must applaud that,” Bulls’ director of rugby wrote.

“Decision-makers have seen that it isn’t fair for a team to travel those distances with that tight turnaround. Indeed, perhaps those scorelines needed to happen for people to understand the schedule’s imperfections.”

READ MORE: Jake White’s risky Champions Cup selection backfires as Munster down Bulls