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

Planet Rugby
Conor Murray in action for Munster in 2024.

Conor Murray in action for Munster in 2024.

Jake White’s decision to rest his Springboks stars ahead of this weekend’s United Rugby Championship clash did not pay off as the Bulls succumbed 27-22 to Munster in Pretoria.

The South African outfit controversially left 11 internationals at home for their Champions Cup quarter-final against Northampton Saints.

White was heavily criticised for that decision in the build-up to the last-eight encounter, and they were ultimately hammered by the Saints.

Part of the reason for sending a weakened squad was to keep his best players fresh for the crucial URC match with Munster, but it backfired on Saturday.

Johan Grobbelaar had put the Bulls 22-17 ahead in the second period, adding to earlier efforts from Elrigh Louw and Kurt-Lee Arendse, but the visitors fought back.

Shane Daly and RG Snyman had touched down in the first half before John Hodnett levelled matters in the second period.

The game was tied at 22-22 going into the final few minutes, but Conor Murray crossed the whitewash late on to snatch the win for the Irish province.

Click here for scorers

The teams were separated by just one place and two points before kick-off and while Bulls dominated early possession they could make little headway against a well-organised Munster defence.

Munster were unlucky not to go in front when Murray’s 52-metre penalty attempt hit a post, but they went ahead from their first attack after 19 minutes when brilliant handling from their backs – sparked by centre Alex Nankivell – created a try for Daly that Jack Crowley converted.

It was a short-lived advantage, though, with Bulls responding through a trademark score that showcased their enviable forward power.

Louw attacked from the back of a scrum, and after Munster initially held him up, there was no stopping the skipper a second time as he took three defenders over the line with him.

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Johan Goosen converted and then kicked a penalty but Munster were not to be denied a strong first-half finish as they regained the initiative when Snyman rounded off a prolonged spell of pressure and Crowley converted before adding a penalty a 17-10 interval advantage.

The Bulls took only five minutes to cut their deficit, with Arendse crossing wide out from close range, and Munster could not hold wave after wave of phase-play.

Grobbelaar was the next beneficiary following a quickly-taken penalty as he breached Munster’s defence, with Goosen’s conversion completing a scoring burst of 12 points in just six minutes.

It was to be Goosen’s final scoring contribution as he was then sent off by Welsh referee Adam Jones following head-on-head contact with Munster’s replacement scrum-half Craig Casey.

Munster immediately made their one-player advantage count, with Crowley’s cross-kick finding Hodnett, who displayed outstanding strength and awareness to crash over and tie things up at 22-22 before Murray’s late clincher.

The teams

Bulls: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Canan Moodie, 12 David Kriel, 11 Sebastien de Klerk, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Elrigh Louw (c), 7 Reinhardt Ludwig, 6 Cameron Hanekom, 5 JF van Heerden, 4 Ruan Vermaak, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp
Replacements: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Mornay Smith, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 Mpilo Gumede, 21 Zak Burger, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Devon Williams

Munster: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Antoine Frisch, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Shane Daly, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jack O’Donoghue, 7 Alex Kendellen, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Tadhg Beirne (c), 4 RG Snyman, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Jeremy Loughman
Replacements: 16 Eoghan Clarke, 17 Josh Wycherley, 18 Oli Jager, 19 Tom Ahern, 20 Gavin Coombes, 21 Craig Casey, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 John Hodnett

Referee: Adam Jones (Wales)
Assistant Referees: AJ Jacobs (South Africa), Dylen November (South Africa)
TMO: Craig Evans (Wales)

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