Opinion | How Jake White has turned Loftus Versfeld into a fortress

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Ever since Jake White took over at Loftus Versfeld, the Bulls have been a force to be reckoned with, winning Super Rugby Unlocked and topping the Currie Cup round-robin log, writes Dean Boyle.

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The turnaround in the Bulls mirrors what White achieved with the Springboks after he was appointed coach in early 2004 and turned a side hurting after the 2003 Rugby World Cup into world champions in 2007.

Similarly, at Super Rugby level, White transformed the Brumbies, taking them to an ankle-tap away from winning the title in Hamilton in 2014 against the Chiefs.

And now, much to the delight of the Loftus Versfeld faithful, White is busy returning the Bulls to the rugby force they once were.

When White took over last year, the Bulls had won just one out of six matches in Super Rugby 2020 and lay 12th in the 15-team standings before the tournament was cut short by Covid-19.

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White’s tactical masterclass has consisted of bringing balance in both their playing style and the squad (with some big-name signings), instilling passion and intensity and reverting to the Bulls’ traditional strengths.

In doing so, White has turned Loftus Versfeld into a fortress once more.

White has ensured that there has been a healthy balance of youth and experience as well as strength and speed.

He did away with veteran Juandre Kruger and showed faith in Ruan Nortje as well as other youngsters.

White brought in exciting attacking players, including Blitzboks stars Stedman Gans and Kurt-Lee Arendse.

He also recruited experienced players in the form of Arno Botha and Gio Aplon, and in more recent months, White has managed to lure Francois Hougaard back to Pretoria as well as sign two other Springboks in Marcell Coetzee and Johan Goosen.

White has reverted to the traditional strengths of the Bulls, namely rolling mauls, big carries and relentless pressure.

White has implemented a better balance in the Bulls’ play.

LOFTUS VERSFELD HAS BEEN A FORTRESS THIS SEASON

Those watching this season will have seen the Bulls making the hard yards and big carries up front, before unleashing a rejuvenated backline which has excelled off quick ball with a number of old hands – Morne Steyn and Cornal Hendricks – complimenting the youth of Gans and Arendse in particular.

Loftus Versfeld has been a fortress this season.

In Super Rugby Unlocked, the Bulls demolished the Sharks 41-14 and led the Stormers 39-6 before rain saw play stopped early.

In the Currie Cup, the Bulls beat the defending champion Cheetahs 40-13 and a second-string side defeated the Lions 22-15.

The Bulls head into Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final against the Lions as favourites to reach the final – which they will host if they do indeed beat their Jukskei rivals as is expected.

Don’t bet against Jake White’s magical touch helping the Bulls to their first Currie Cup title since 2009.

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