Rampant Bulls juniors also inspired by Jake White effect

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Diego Appollis of the Blue bulls u21 during the SA Rugby U/21 Championship match between Cell C Sharks and Vodacom Blue Bulls at Emirates Airline Park on October 16, 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)
Diego Appollis of the Blue bulls u21 during the SA Rugby U/21 Championship match between Cell C Sharks and Vodacom Blue Bulls at Emirates Airline Park on October 16, 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)
  • The Bulls hope to put their tradition of success at junior level into overdrive through the involvement of director of rugby, Jake White.
  • Hayden Groepes, the unions' Under-21 coach, says the former Bok coach's support has been invaluable in the team's march towards Friday's Provincial Championship final against the Lions.
  • He's also chuffed that this year's tournament's showpiece will feature the two best teams.

While the Bulls have relentlessly continued to produce fine Under-21 vintages, Jake White’s pedigreed presence is arguably laying the foundation for the union’s junior structures to scale even headier heights.

Hayden Groepes’ troops will on Friday defend their Provincial Championship title against the Lions at Ellis Park, culminating a stellar if short campaign defined by the newfound synergy between the Bulls’ respective teams.

"It’s been a real privilege to work with Jake,” said the Bulls Under-21 head coach.

"His experience is invaluable and that’s really helped me when I needed some advice or support. He’s always willing to help.

"More importantly, he’s really been actively involved with us in his duties as director of rugby. We’ve synchronised our structures, allowing the younger players to gain some experience at senior level and then seamlessly fitting in again when they come back to us."

Bulls' road to the final

Beat Western Province 36-25

Beat Free State Cheetahs 19-0

Lost to Lions 17-26

Beat Sharks 72-26

That dynamic was apparent from the start, where prop Jan-Hendrik Wessels and wing Stravino Jacobs returned from game-time in Super Fan Saturday to play starring roles in the Bulls 36-25 winning start against Western Province in their campaign opener.

Yet the key to their march to the final has been the skilful use of a squad system.

"I’m very happy with how the players have responded," said Groepes.

"We’ve had a great squad of about 39 players available to us, so there’s great depth. I believe the challenge of emerging from lockdown and then commencing with an intense 14-week schedule, which has included the tournament itself, inspired the players.

"Everybody has pulled in the same direction, worked really hard and relish whatever opportunity they get."

Predictably, the results have been noteworthy.

The Bulls finished top of the log, scoring the most tries (22) by some margin while also only letting a season-low of nine.

That would certainly suggest a team capable of winning but varied rugby.

"I really have to complement my coaching staff for that," said Groepes, himself considered one of the most promising rugby minds in the country, who’s assisted by several experienced men such as David Manuel and Pine Pienaar.

"We’ve worked well as a unit to try and get the best out of the players."

Appropriately, their opponents in Friday’s showpiece were the only team to claim their scalp during the round-robin phase.

"The two best teams in this year’s competition are contesting the final. The Lions have really impressed with the rugby we’ve played this season," said Groepes.

"We’re really looking forward to the challenge."


Teams:

Bulls

15 Richard Kriel, 14 Stravino Jacobs, 13 Diego Appollis, 12 Jay-Cee Nel, 11 Sebastiaan Jobb, 10 David Coetzer, 9 Bernard van der Linde, 8 Divan Venter, 7 Keenan Opperman, 6 Hendri du Toit, 5 Janko Swanepoel, 4 Jordan van Dyk, 3 Eduan Swart, 2 Janco Uys, 1 Kudwzai Dube (captain)

Substitutes: 16 Keano Hendricks, 17 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 18 Nolan Pienaar, 19 Uzile Tete, 20 WJ Steenkamp, 21 Keagan Johannes, 22 Ruben Beytell, 23 Dawid Kellerman

Lions

15 Shaun Baxter, 14 Prince Nkabinde, 13 James Mollentze, 12 Luke Rossouw, 11 Ngia Selengbe, 10 Marc Morisson, 9 Runaldo Pedro, 8 Francke Horn (captain), 7 Sibusiso Sangweni, 6 Mark Snyman, 5 Cal Smid, 4 Emmanuel Tshituka, 3 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 2 Dameon Venter, 1 Nkosikhona Masuku

Substitutes (from): 16 Darnell Osowagu, 17 Banele Mthenjane, 18 Ebot Buma, 19 Junior White, 20 Mandisi Mthiyane, 21 Hlulelo Ndudula, 22 Jordan Hendrikse, 23 Boitumelo Tsatsane, 24 Quan Horn, 25 Lindo Ncusane 


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