Bulls coach Jake White: Who knows what to expect from Currie Cup semifinals

Mahlatse Mphahlele Sports reporter
Vodacom Bulls coach Jake White.
Vodacom Bulls coach Jake White.
Image: Frikkie Kapp/Gallo Images

Bulls coach Jake White doesn’t know how this weekend’s Currie Cup semifinals are going to pan out because all the teams have not played rugby in a while due to Covid-19 scheduling complications.

Western Province and the Sharks‚ who meet in the second semifinal at Newlands‚ last played a competitively on January 2 against the Cheetahs and Griquas respectively.

The Lions last tasted competitive action on January 6 and the last match for the Bulls came four days later when they lost to the Pumas in Mbombela where White fielded a second-string side.

“It’s interesting to see what kind of games you are going to get – all the four semifinal teams haven’t played for a while‚” he said as the Bulls prepared to host the Lions at Loftus on Saturday.

“It’s a bit different to what teams are like but I have been used to it before because in France the teams that finish first and second on the log don’t play on the weekend of the quarterfinal.

“After the quarterfinal‚ there are semifinals‚ so it’s very similar in the French league‚ who also have a week off. I have seen over the years that teams that finish first and second on the log don’t always win the competition – it’s the ones that play the quarterfinals and semifinals that go on and win.”

White also expressed delight at being able to call on the experienced prop combination of Lizo Gqoboka and Trevor Nyakane.

“Lizo is a Springbok and he has played many times with Trevor Nyakane. Having worked with the pack last week with Daan Human I was the thinking that the combination is settled and they like to play together.

“Lizo has not been with us every single week because of injury but he has been with us for the last couple of weeks.

“To get him involved with us now as a starter is good and we have the luxury of having Jacques van Rooyen on the bench with all the experience and he has played for the Lions many times.”

White added that the fact that his side have not played in a while is not unique as a situation‚ but also the same for everyone.

“It is a very unique situation for everyone and sometimes you look at your own team and I wish you had more time to play more games‚” he said.

“Western Province haven’t played for ages and in most of the games they played with Steven Kitshoff for 80 minutes and now they are going to start with Ali Vermaak.

“The point I am trying to make is that everybody is in the same boat. I am not quite sure how it will gel‚ not quite sure how guys who haven’t had much game time are going to perform.

“When last did Vermaak play and how much rugby did he play? But sometimes it can also be a bonus.

“It is an incredibly unique situation that we find ourselves in at the moment as SA Rugby. You can’t train Mondays and Tuesdays because of Covid-19 testing and you can’t train Thursdays and Fridays and play Saturday because we just know that is not the right way to prepare based on the overload.

“Everyone has had to try different combinations because people had Covid or they were close to those who had Covid‚ but it is the same for everybody.”

Currie Cup semifinals -

Saturday:

  • Bulls v Lions (Loftus Versfeld‚ 2pm)
  • Western Province v Sharks (Newlands‚ 4.30pm)

Final -

  • Saturday‚ January 30: venue to be announced
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