“It’s irrelevant where you are now. It’s where you’re going to be when the playoffs come.”
Bulls director of rugby Jake White is satisfied with his team’s position as the year comes to an end, despite their 26-20 United Rugby Championship (URC) defeat against the Stormers at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday night.
Although the Highveld side were unable to break their duck, losing their seventh straight match in the URC against their coastal rivals, they were still well placed on the log going into the new year.
The Bulls were third on the URC log before the game and had dropped to fourth by the end of it, but they are still the highest placed South African team in the competition and have a good run of home games coming up.
“It’s eight rounds that we’ve played, and we’re top of the South African team. If you had said that before we started, that we’d get to Christmas, be top of the SA teams and we’ve only played three home games this year, I’m sure all the Bulls supporters and we coaches would have taken it,” White said after the game.
“We’ve got to regroup over the next two weeks because we were on the wrong end of the result. But the tournament isn’t over, and anyone will tell you if you look at the last couple of years it’s irrelevant where you are now. It’s where you’re going to be when the playoffs come.”
The Bulls’ good form this season, coupled with the Stormers’ struggles, brought hope to the team and their supporters that they would finally be able to get that elusive win over their rivals, but in the end it wasn’t to be as the Cape side secured a deserved victory.
“This is a tough place to win. To be fair good teams have come here and lost. I was always aware of that, they’ve got a proud record here. We had our chances and credit to them. They kept us out two or three times on their try line,” said White.
“They only scored two tries against us. I know a few were disallowed, but I thought we scrambled well and our defence has definitely improved.
“Their defence has always been a strength. A lot of guys talk about Norman Laker (Stormers defence coach) in high regard and we saw that tonight. The way they defended with those tap penalties (on their line) shows they work together.
“It’s not the result we wanted. I thought we made a couple of unforced errors, but that’s the pressure that comes from these games.”
White also admitted that his side were just not good enough after they gave away a slew of early penalties which put them on the back foot.
“In the first half I thought that was probably the worst we’ve played this year. The interesting stat with penalties was that we conceded eight in the first half and six in the first 22 minutes,” explained White.
“If you give any side six penalties in 22 minutes to start off the game you put yourself behind the eight ball. It wasn’t so much the eight conceded, it was the six early on in the game.”