British & Irish Lions

Jake backs Bok coach on one Bulls loss not being significant for Lions tour: 'He's right'

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Jake White (Gallo)
Jake White (Gallo)
  • Bulls mentor Jake White says Jacques Nienaber, the national coach, is "right" in believing last week's Rainbow Cup final result isn't a sign that the Boks will struggle against the Lions.
  • The former Springbok coach also noted that the occasion was really one where Nienaber didn't have to worry about the fortunes of one franchise team as he has bigger things to focus on.
  • White believes the overseas-based Boks will play a massive role in helping their SA-based team-mates get up to speed with the intensity of international rugby.

Unsurprisingly for a man who's been in that position before, Jake White reads absolutely nothing into Jacques Nienaber, the Springbok coach, stating this week that the Bulls' comprehensive loss in the Rainbow Cup final won't affect South Africa ahead of the series against the British & Irish Lions.

Given how the result, a messy 8-35 defeat against Benetton raised broader questions over local franchises' potential ability to be successful in the United Rugby Championship later this year, it was striking how Nienaber hit back on those fears with a straight bat.

He very reasonably used the example of 2019's poor Super Rugby campaign for SA having no effect on the Springboks winning the Rugby Championship and World Cup a few months later.

READ | Nienaber relaxed on what Bulls loss means to Boks: 'We can't use that as a gauge'

The Bulls had to travel to Treviso without four key Springboks in Trevor Nyakane, Marco van Staden, Morne Steyn and the injured Duane Vermeulen due to national team protocols.

"In Jacques' defence, he's right," said White, ahead of the Bulls' Currie Cup meeting with the Pumas in Nelspruit on Friday evening.

"I didn't think anything about that comment. The Springboks get to pick the best players that they have in camp for six weeks and quite rightly so. What they’ve done is right. Every decision they’ve made is in the national interest. It must be like that. That’s what the All Blacks have done for years."

Teams:

Bulls

15 Gio Aplon, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Harold Vorster, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Marcell Coetzee (captain), 7 Ruan Nortje, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Janko Swanepoel, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Schalk Erasmus, 1 Lizo Gqoboka

Substitutes: 16 Sidney Tobias, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Jacques van Rooyen, 19 Muller Uys, 20 WJ Steenkamp, 21 Zak Burger, 22 FC du Plessis, 23 David Kriel

Pumas

15 Devon Williams, 14 Tapiwa Mafura, 13 Erich Cronje, 12 Matt More, 11 Etienne Taljaard, 10 Eddie Fouche, 9 Chriswill September, 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Phumzile Maqondwana, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Pieter Jansen van Vuren (captain), 4 Darrien Landsberg, 3 Marne Coetzee, 2 Simon Westraadt, 1 Dewald Maritz

Substitutes: 16 Eduan Swart, 17 Ruan Kramer, 18 Ig Prinsloo, 19 Brandon Valentyn, 20 Kwanda Dimaza, 21 Ginter Smuts, 22 Waynde van der Bank, 23 Jade Stighling

The Bulls' director of rugby also acknowledged that his team's one-off trip to Europe was, at least from a broader perspective, about more than just trying to win.

"I know what Jacques means – I’ve been in that chair. He doesn't want to read into what happened with a franchise team. He would love us to win sure, but by his, Rassie Erasmus and Jurie Roux's own admissions, they told us we, as a rugby country, needed last week's game," said White.

"We needed to play that game for television rights income and to promote the Rainbow Cup. We needed to promote that we’re going to play in Europe. We needed it as a country.


"There’s a much bigger picture involved here. The loss, and the style or manner in which we played, isn’t affecting the Springboks."

In fact, White believes that even if the Springboks' SA-based players might be lacking in terms of having recently experienced international-level intensity, the substantial contingent of overseas-based players will more than make up for it.

"The reality is that with all the players Jacques has at his disposal, especially all those overseas-based players, he has a group that has played internationally and experienced the intensity that we faced for the first time last week weekly," he said.

"The local guys might be a bit gun-shy because they're in the same position as we were in terms of not being exposed to a higher intensity, but the overseas guys are going to help them in that regard. 

"The national cause is paramount for SA rugby. It’s how it should be."

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