‘No chance’ – Jake White plays underdog card ahead of Bulls’ blockbuster semi-final against Leinster

Dylan Coetzee
Bulls director of rugby Jake White.

Bulls director of rugby Jake White.

Bulls director of rugby Jake White insists his side are the underdogs heading into their highly anticipated United Rugby Championship (URC) semi-final against Leinster.

The Pretoria men beat Benetton 30-23 at home in the quarter-final to secure their spot in the last four against the Irish giants, who they faced at the same stage in URC I where White’s charges shocked Leinster in Dublin.

That was not the case early this season when Leinster took apart the Bulls 47-14 in Ireland. However, interestingly Leo Cullen’s side has never sent a full-strength squad on a South Africa tour as it has often been scheduled around the Champions Cup play-offs when the coach has opted to rest his key men.

Brilliant battle loading

It all makes for an intriguing battle at Loftus Versfeld with White requesting fans to pull in to make a full house earlier this week. While he did play the underdog card, the former Springboks boss admits there is always a chance, using Benetton as an example.

“The interesting thing is there are 160 minutes left of rugby. And let’s be fair, no one thought Benetton could beat us. And they nearly did,” the coach commented.

“So we probably got no chance against Leinster and no chance against Munster, in everyone’s eyes. Probably two of the best clubs in the world.

“But that’s sometimes a nice place to be.

“Because Benetton showed today [Saturday] that if you really play well you can win a knock-out game,” White added.

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Injury woes

The Bulls have lost both of their World Cup-winning wings in Canan Moodie and Kurt-Lee Arendse to injury over the last couple of weeks, which is a massive blow, but they expect Marco van Staden and Marcell Coetzee to return.

“I am hoping Marco and Marcell are back next week,” White said.

“That gives you two really senior players.

“Sometimes you have to think out of the box, just in terms of what you want out of the game.

“When I get home now I am going to look at the Leinster v Ulster game again and then I will get a good feeling for what the call has to be.

“Sometimes you have to be brave.”

The coach claims there will be no motivation required against one of the top sides in the world.

“If it’s Leinster, I don’t have to say anything. They drilled us,” he said. “What am I going to say that’s going to make them feel differently about getting up for this game?

“The one really positive thing is they beat us 31-3 in the opening game the first year, and we beat them in the semi-finals at Leinster.

“So it’s not something that hasn’t been done by our group.

“We are the only South African team that has ever played Leinster’s full-strength side and this will be the third time. There is no other franchise that has played Leinster’s full-strength side.

“In three years, not one of the other franchises [has done it].

“When they came here, they brought their second stringers and at the beginning of the season when we toured there with the South African sides, they were at the World Cup.

“But there’s a positive to that. It means we’ve played their best players – this is the third time,” he explained.

“The nice thing about rugby is when you don’t play well and you win.

“That’s the nice thing about rugby. When you don’t play well and you still get a result. Many teams play well and still lose.

“For me it’s like, let’s recover, let’s get ready, get our bodies right. It’s not going to get any easier now.”

READ MORE: United Rugby Championship Team of the Week: Leinster lead the way while Springbok in-waiting impresses