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‘We’re in an extraordinary situation’ – White on Bulls’ Covid-19 juggling act

The Jake White coached Vodacom Bulls are still top of the Carling Currie Cup despite not playing for the last three weeks.
The Jake White coached Vodacom Bulls are still top of the Carling Currie Cup despite not playing for the last three weeks.
Image: Frikkie Kapp/Gallo Images

Bulls coach Jake White has explained in detail the intricate behind-the-scenes juggling acts they have to negotiate around on a daily basis to prepare teams in the new normal of Covid-19.

The Bulls return to action on Wednesday – against the Lions at Loftus Versfeld (kickoff 7pm) – for the first time in almost a month due to Covid-19 positive cases in their camp.

Since rugby returned there has been rigorous testing of players‚ coaches and other essential staff during the Super Rugby Unlocked and the Currie Cup with some of the matches postponed or called off.

“We are in an extraordinary situation with two games in one week and having not played for a while – the only team that has played two games in one week in this competition‚” White said.

“Obviously there is a lot of criticism that we only played at home in Super Rugby.

"So we are playing away this week and two games in one week‚ which is obviously a lot more strenuous than any other team‚ then Sunday and a quick turnaround to the semi-final which again is unheard of.

“But be that as it may‚ I will have to look and see what I am gonna do on Sunday‚ which has a domino effect on what I do on Wednesday and that has a domino effect on what we are gonna do next Saturday.

"It’s the same for everybody but its unique‚ where have you played two or three Currie Cup games in 10 days and one of them is a semi-final.”

White added that there is a lot of work that happens behind the scenes to plan for a variety of scenarios in case of players testing positive.

“So‚ there is a lot of thought that is going in into it behind the scenes with regards to what do we do.

“Should we go flat out‚ what happens if we play the same players and they don’t last until next Saturday?

"Or what happens if I decide I am going to put all my eggs in one basket and three other guys test positive next week and the team changes anyway.

“So‚ you could actually leave some guys and put your eggs in one basket and then test next week and have three guys in your team that you thought could play in a semi-final out anyway‚ and then you end up at square one.

"It isn’t ideal‚ but it’s the same for everybody and we just have to try and adapt.

“At this point in time‚ I am happy that we are still top of the log despite not having played in three weeks and that says a lot about this group.”

Though cancellations have been disruptive‚ they have allowed Lizo Gqoboka and Jacques van Rooyen to fully recover from injury and be available for the Lions match.

“Sometimes you can look at the glass half full or half empty.

"I have couple of guys back‚ I just think that one thing that I have always learned when I coached is that you will never have the ideal team.

“When I coached the Boks you always had the idea on paper that I will have this guy and that guy.

"When Schalk Burger is injured‚ you don’t have Bakkies Botha and when Bakkies Botha comes back you don’t have Butch James and when Butch James is available you don’t have Fourie Du Preez.

“Every province and any team and every coach who has been there understands that.

"I know what the ideal team is and now with Covid-19 there is even less chance that you will get an ideal team.

"To have Lizo starting and Jacques van Rooyen on the bench – how many teams in SA can have those two?”

Bulls extended match day squad:

Lizo Gqoboka‚ Schalk Erasmus‚ Trevor Nyakane‚ Jan Uys‚ Ruan Nortje‚ Marco van Staden‚ Elrigh Louw‚ Duane Vermeulen‚ Embrose Papier‚ Chris Smith‚ Stravino Jacobs‚ Cornal Hendricks‚ Marnus Potgieter‚ Jay-Cee Nel‚ David Kriel‚ Johan Grobbelaar‚ Jacques van Rooyen‚ Marcel van der Merwe‚ Walt Steenkamp‚ Arno Botha‚ Tim Agaba‚ Ivan van Zyl‚ Morne Steyn‚ Keagan Johannes‚ David Kellerman‚ Jade Stighling‚ Jan-Hendrik Wessels‚ Joe van Zyl.