United Rugby Championship: Jake White says ‘form is irrelevant’ in play-offs
Bulls director of rugby Jake White believes form will go out the window when his side take on the Stormers in their United Rugby Championship (URC) quarter-final in Cape Town on Saturday.
There’s plenty of hype around the fixture, which is a repeat of last year’s inaugural URC final between these teams, which the Stormers won.
The defending champions have been South Africa’s best-performing team in the tournament again this year as they finished in third position on the table during the league phase of the competition, which meant they also lifted the SA Shield for the second successive year.
Stormers eyeing sixth successive win over Bulls
John Dobson’s charges have also held the upper-hand against the Pretoria-based outfit as the Stormers are chasing their sixth successive win in this fixture.
Meanwhile, Dobson coached Western Province to victory over White’s Bulls in Cape Town after also notching a win in the corresponding fixture in Pretoria earlier this year.
That means the men from the Cape landed a psychological blow on their opponents in the build-up to their URC knockout match, and White expects another huge battle this weekend.
“Let me be clear, as the Bulls we still haven’t done anything in the URC,” he said via an official URC statement. “In all probability, the odds will tell you the Stormers should beat us [on Saturday].”
The Bulls went through a 10-match losing streak in all tournaments earlier this season but eventually returned to winning ways with a 78-12 win against Zebre in Round 17 of the URC before finishing their campaign in style with a 62-7 triumph over an understrength Leinster side.
White compared his side’s form this season to making the cut in a golf tournament.
“This season for me has been a little bit like playing on the Friday to make the cut [of a golf competition], where for the past two years for this group, it’s been about walking up the 18th on a Sunday trying to win the tournament,” he added.
“This season has been about are we good enough, why do I have the yips in my putting, are we going to make the cut, we’re under pressure here. These are questions that have never been asked of this group of players.
“We had to make the cut, and we’ve done that. Now we have three games to win the competition. It’s just like golf with two days now to win it.
First priority is to make the play-offs
“And in golf, the one who just makes the cut compared with the player who is six shots ahead, there is no guarantee the player in the lead is going to win the competition. So now it’s a new competition.
“It’s irrelevant how many games you’ve won out of 18, or if they’ve beaten you in the pool stages. The point is now who plays the best at the back end of the competition. That’s why I’ve said all along, don’t measure us halfway through the competition.
“The first priority when you sign up to any competition is to make sure you play in the play-offs. That’s the bottom line.
“But all I can say is the resilience we talk about is much more meaningful to youngsters when it comes from a position of experience and having been through it. Sometimes, that’s what a team needs to move to the next level.”
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