Blitzbok Kurt-Lee Arendse scored a brace on his Bulls debut
- Jake White told opponents to be wary of the pocket rockets in his backline and they duly delivered in the Bulls’ fine win over the Sharks.
- The team’s director of rugby noted how his Blitzbok bolters are primed for the fifteen-man game because of the excellent coaching they receive at sevens level.
- White was also impressed by how powerful his pack was as well as the limited number of mistakes his charges made for a pre-season match.
Earlier this week, Jake White issued a friendly warning to the local rugby fraternity to expect the unexpected from his band of pocket rockets in the backline.
The Bulls duly delivered just that in a sterling 49-28 demolition of the Sharks in their Super Fan Saturday clash at Loftus as a pacey, skilful and accurate back division ran amok.
Blitzbok Kurt-Lee Arendse, picked on the left wing, stole the show with a magical 85m run from a turnover on his way to the first of two tries, while his sevens skipper Stedman Gans was equally dangerous at outside centre.
Older hands such Gio Aplon and Cornal Hendricks, operating at fullback and inside centre respectively, also made incisive contributions that heavily bore the mark of their sevens moulding, emphatically shattering the perception that White’s rein at Loftus will only be about power and size.
“When you looked at the backs, it’s the first time they played together,” said the Bulls’ director of rugby.
“To see the type of tries they scored and the cohesion they showed was notable. It wasn’t only from first or second phase or turnover ball. Without singling anyone out, Kurt-Lee basically rounded off a 95m movement.
“It’s a fantastic thing for a forward get out of a scrum, lineout or breakdown and see your winger run the whole length of the field to go and score.”
There’s indeed a trend emerging that Blitzboks exponents are finding it increasingly easier to adapt to the demands of the fifteen-man game, exemplified by the exploits of players such as Kwagga Smith and Rosko Specman.
And White lays credit for that squarely at national sevens coach Neil Powell’s door.
“It’s really a feather in Neil and (Sevens academy coach) Marius Schoeman’s cap. They work superbly with those players, whose basic skills are unbelievable,” he said.
“They can catch and pass effectively. Their defence is robust and they understand the game so well. You immediately see when you start working with them that their work ethic is excellent. It’s really encouraging for me that we can incorporate such players so seamlessly into the fifteen-man format.”
Another major factor is that the game’s laws are placing a premium on the skillsets of men like Gans, Arendse and Aplon.
“The rules now encourage players to carry the ball, especially with tacklers now expected to roll away immediately. It means you’re going to be afforded more space and that’s where the strengths of players with sevens experience really come to the fore,” said White.
But the Bulls sterling performance was about far more than just cracking attacking play.
A rampant pack bossed the set-pieces and collisions, leading to a irresistible cocktail of power and precision.
“It’s part of our DNA. We want to play a different way but we also want to go back to the things that we’re known for,” said White.
“If you look at teams like Real Madrid or Barcelona, the way they play football, there’s something about the way they grow up and the way they do things. We I see us score maul tries, force scrum penalties and the pack carrying and being physical, it’s part of what we want to be.
“I was really impressed with the small number of mistakes we made. It’s a great start for us as a group.”