Currie Cup

'Ideal team' has become mythical, says Jake ahead of Bulls' tight run-in

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Lizo Gqoboka. (Gallo Images)
Lizo Gqoboka. (Gallo Images)
  • The Bulls Covid-outbreak might've helped Jake White gain some returning stars, but that doesn't mean he'll have a full-strength available for the final tilt at Currie Cup glory.
  • The former Springbok coach points out how the "ideal team" has become rather mythical during the pandemic.
  • Tinkering would seem to be the way White will have to go with three matches in 10 days planned.

Jake White has adopted the proverbial glass half-full view on the Bulls having to wait until Tuesday to finalise their match-23 for Wednesday's Currie Cup meeting with the Lions at Loftus.

A few outstanding Covid-19 test results is the overriding reason for the delay.

Nonetheless, the extended squad announced on Monday did reveal a few positive developments following three weeks of patchy training due to a virus outbreak in the squad, notably the potential return of Springbok loosehead Lizo Gqoboka and gifted 21-year-old flanker Elrigh Louw.

READ | Jake White on Covid battle: I lost close friends, it gave me perspective

Tireless skipper Duane Vermeulen has also been afforded a break after playing extensively for the majority of local rugby's belated domestic campaign.

"Sometimes you can look at the glass as either being half-full or half-empty," said White.

"We definitely have a couple of guys back and that's great."

But there is a caveat.

"One thing I've learnt as a coach over the years is that you never going to have the 'ideal team' playing for you. On paper, you'll always have the idea that you'll have this guy and that guy playing in unison," said the Bulls' director of rugby.

"At the Springbok it was a merry-go-round. You'd have Schalk Burger injured, then Bakkies Botha would be unavailable and just when Schalk returns someone like Butch James would be missing. When he's back, you wouldn't have Fourie du Preez.

"Every team has experienced that and understands it."

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - NOVEMBER 28: Jake White

The pandemic has merely made that already rarely attainable objective border on mythical now.

"I know what my ideal team is, but with Covid there's even less of a chance of that happening," said White.

"I can plan for next Saturday's (semifinal) against a certain opposition with certain combinations. It can happen that you don't risk certain players from a rugby point of view and then the next week they test positive for the virus because they came together for a braai.

"And then you're back to square one anyway. We need games like (Wednesday's) one to test different combinations. I'd like to see how we're developing going into the rest of the year."

Tinkering would indeed seem to be the way White will have to go as the Currie Cup approaches its business end, especially now that circumstances dictate they play three matches in 10 days.

"The disruption is obvious, but it's been the same for everyone," said White.

"There's a lot of thought that's going into this behind the scenes. Do we go flat-out? What happens if we play the same players this week and they don't make next week's playoffs? 

"What if I put all my eggs in one basket and three guys test positive next week? The team changes anyway. You're back to square one. It's all about adapting."   

Teams:

Lions

TBA

Bulls: 

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.

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