Jake White tells Bulls that Leinster display is ‘the benchmark’ to follow

South African sides face tough start to competition with four away games

Madosh Tambwe of the Bulls is tackled by Leinster’s Ryan Baird during the United Rugby Championship match at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph:  Billy Stickland/Inpho

Madosh Tambwe of the Bulls is tackled by Leinster’s Ryan Baird during the United Rugby Championship match at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

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The South Africans received warm welcomes off the pitch, and even hotter ones on it, in an introduction to the United Rugby Championship which didn’t have the impact which might have been generally hoped.

The Bulls and Sharks, Currie Cup final contestants a fortnight previously, shipped 10 tries in convincing wins by the Pro14 finalists of last March, Leinster and Munster. The Stormers were also overcome in Treviso, thus leaving the Lions as their only winners from Friday night against Zebre.

Yet there was enough evidence at the Aviva Stadium and Thomond Park to suggest they can add plenty to this competition in due course. The Bulls’ wily World Cup winning coach Jake White was realistic rather than fatalistic.

It’s a learning process for us. I always say if we’re not winning we’ve got to learn and we’ll learn

“We scored a try which was disallowed for a knock-on and it just shows you the intensity that they have, not only with the ball but without the ball as well,” he said after the 31-3 defeat to Leinster.

“That is the benchmark of how this competition works. If you are going to win this competition you’ve got to beat them and it doesn’t get any tougher than at the Aviva Stadium in front of 20,000 people.”

Bulls director of rugby Jake White on the sideline at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Bulls director of rugby Jake White on the sideline at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

White’s acknowledgement of Leinster’s quality was undimmed.

“It’s a learning process for us. I always say if we’re not winning we’ve got to learn and we’ll learn. Now we’ve got three more games on this tour and we’ve got to make sure that the things we learned tonight are the things we can get into place as I said and try and replicate the way Leinster play because they are the leaders in this comp like the Crusaders were in Super Rugby.

I’m not taking anything away from them. They will squeeze you and they will not give you anything and tonight they showed it again

“I want the guys to make sure that they remember that that’s the benchmark and they’ve got try and see if we can catch up with them.”

This clear step up from provincial rugby in South Africa was, he believed, most obvious in the way Leinster denied them time and space.

“The difference between schools rugby, club rugby, provincial rugby and international rugby is that you get less time and less space, and that’s the bottom line. Your skillset comes under more and more pressure the higher you go up the table and it’s not going to get any tougher than Leinster at Leinster with a team that’s packed with internationals and know what it takes to play at this level.

“There’s no nice way of saying you lose 31-3 but in saying that there’s a lot of lessons and a lot of teams are still going to have to play them.”

The South African sides are away from home for a month in a tough entry to the competition, before being granted a week’s respite prior to a run of home games, but at least the Bulls know the fixtures cannot get any tougher than this.

They play Connacht in Galway next Friday night before taking on Cardiff and Edinburgh.

“That’s exactly the challenge we have as coaches now, that is not to get down on ourselves,” said White. “This is the best team in Europe, this is a team that has four European championships. Whatever they’ve call this tournament, Magners League, Celtic League, Pro14, they’ve dominated.

“I’m not taking anything away from them. They will squeeze you and they will not give you anything and tonight they showed it again. They’ve won the game and they were not going to give you anything, not even a soft try at the end.

“All those things that they did tonight just highlight where you want to get to as a team if you want to win this competition, or at least give yourselves a fair chance.”

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