Vodacom Bulls director of rugby Jake White admitted after his side’s 44-14 rout at Exeter Chiefs in Round 2 of the Heineken Champions Cup that the tournament is harder than he initially anticipated.
The South African side reached the final of the United Rugby Championship last season, but they now find themselves in seventh place in Pool A after two rounds of EPCR’s elite competition, with only eight teams going through to the knockout stage.
White was particularly impressed by Exeter, the 2020 winners, whom he described as “probably the best team we’ve ever played against”.
“Looking at the Exeter team-sheet, you’ve got Jonny Gray, Stuart Hogg, Dafydd Jenkins from Wales, two other guys from Scotland, one from Ireland, Scott Sio from Australia, a flanker from Wales, an Argentinian, Tongan and South African on the bench – that’s what you’re playing against,” he explained. “It’s definitely a much tougher competition than you think.
“We had our chances and didn’t take them, and just made too many mistakes: 10 penalties in the first half gave them too many entries into our 22 and they were phenomenal – they are probably the best team we’ve ever played against and analysed in terms of their hit-rate whenever they get into your 22.
What series of phases before Stravino Jacobs cruises through a big hole for the opening try 🏉@bluebullsrugby mean business…#HeinekenChampionsCup pic.twitter.com/UxLrQywOwI
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) December 17, 2022
“They are a very good team and will be up there at the end of the competition, I’ve got no doubt about it. There were some guys who didn’t play.”
White is hoping for better fortune when his side host the Gallagher Premiership club in Round 3 at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on January 14.
“The learnings we got out of it is that either you’ve got to be accurate at the breakdown or defend properly – you can’t give penalties away, but at the same time, you can’t give them quick ball all the time, as they are good enough to hold on to it,” he said. “If you get a chance and they hold you up and you don’t take it, you get punished.
“Hopefully, we will be able to do better against them at Loftus and get a win, and that will put our campaign back on track.”