Hurt Jake vows to find ‘missing trick’ for Bulls

Bulls flank Elrigh Louw looks on in disbelief as the Glasgow Warriors players celebrate after referee Andrea Piardi blew the final whistle. Photo: BackpagePix

Bulls flank Elrigh Louw looks on in disbelief as the Glasgow Warriors players celebrate after referee Andrea Piardi blew the final whistle. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Jun 24, 2024


Jake White sat in the post-match press conference a defeated man, understandably dejected after the Bulls had their hearts broken in the United Rugby Championship final by the mighty Glasgow Warriors.

It was a sad end to a wonderful season from the Bulls, who had scored the most tries (85) and most points (639), and ended second on the log with 66 points, behind Munster’s 68.

Going down 21-16 to Glasgow in a thrilling final at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night was not the outcome White or Bulls deserved, but certainly one that coach Franco Smith and his bunch of Warriors had earned with a monumental effort in front of 50 388 spectators.

What made it more difficult for White to accept was the fact that it was their second final defeat in three campaigns, following the 2022 loss to the Stormers in Cape Town.

To make it worse, they led 13-0 in the first half, and conceded a try after the half-time hooter when lock Scott Cummings forced his way over.

It just seemed that the Bulls were punch-drunk the longer the match wore on – with perhaps the exertions of last week’s epic semi-final win over Leinster having a negative effect.

Glasgow came with wave after wave of attacks, and the Bulls missed too many tackles and lacked a hard edge in their physicality up front. They also lost their shape on attack, with the absence of veteran fullback Willie le Roux telling.

“I’m an older guy, and I am trying to teach the youngsters that we missed an opportunity,” White said.

“We did all the hard yards, were 13-0 up and we gave a penalty away – and all of a sudden, we’re 13-7. It was a maul penalty, strangely enough. But there weren’t any other maul penalties …

“When I look back, 39 minutes, maul, if we had held that ball in, maybe there would’ve been a penalty to us.

“Then it’s 16-0 up. But we break away, they get a penalty and they kick it into the corner – it’s 13-7. Credit to them. They defended really well, and some of our big ball-carriers got tackled backwards.

“But we’ll be back. I know, we’ve already marked that we are playing Glasgow away (next season), and I already know the date (Friday, April 25).”

White felt that Glasgow’s greater international experience was the difference in the end, while he was unhappy with a number of decisions by Italian referee Andrea Piardi.

The former Springbok coach stated that he will also do some personal introspection to help the Bulls break through to win titles.

“It’s twice in a row now where the referees (Piardi) let the away side win. In fact, it’s three times – last year, Munster won in Cape Town, Glasgow won in Munster, we won in Leinster, and this referee let the away team win. So maybe, next year I’ll ask when we play away, that I want him to try and ref us,” White quipped.

“We lost away to the Stormers, we lost at home. I myself lost a Super Rugby final against the Chiefs, lost a Rainbow Cup in Benetton, lost two URC finals …

“So, I’m probably going to have a look at what I have to do as a coach to try to get over the line. I don’t know what it is yet. I will wake up tomorrow and I will have a look, and I will think about it.

“My job is to make sure that this time next year, they’re ready. We would’ve been double champions in two years with a team that started from zero.

“I can’t sit here and go ‘Ah, the world’s ended’. The thing that hurts is me, because I have had so many finals – not them.

“I just wonder if I’m missing a trick, and I’m going to have to find out what that trick is. It’s a checklist that I’m going to have to work out.

“But I also want people to understand that for what they’ve achieved – this young group of players – to play in two finals and a quarter-final last year … I can’t make it any quicker than what it is. We’ve got guys like Elrigh (Louw), Cameron (Hanekom), David Kriel who are young, very young.

“I look at a guy like (Johan) Goosen, and everyone says he missed touch (with a penalty). He kicked about 20 kicks over this year that got us to where we were.

“And the ironic thing is that if he kicks that thing out five metres from the tryline, then everybody would’ve told me, ‘Geez guys, that’s incredible’. But I promise you – and you can take this to the bank – that we’ll be back.”