Kick-offs ‘something Bulls can fix’ for Loftus semi-final

Bulls wing Sebastian de Klerk is beaten in the air by Benetton replacement Alessandro Garbisi at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday. Photo: BackpagePix

Bulls wing Sebastian de Klerk is beaten in the air by Benetton replacement Alessandro Garbisi at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Jun 10, 2024


It was far from a convincing performance from the Bulls, but the fact that they battled to put away a competitive Benetton side has actually given them belief that they can beat Leinster on Saturday.

The Irish powerhouses will field their full-strength side for the first time on South African soil when they run out at Loftus Versfeld for the United Rugby Championship semi-final (4pm kick-off), after they dispatched Ulster 43-20 in their Dublin quarter-final.

The Bulls, in contrast, were too loose and made a number of unforced errors in their 30-23 victory over Benetton, where they needed a spirited passage of defence in the closing stages to hold the Italian club at bay.

They started strongly, though, with two Kurt-Lee Arendse tries in the opening quarter. But losing the Springbok star to a fractured cheekbone after 30 minutes also deflated the home side, and Benetton were right in the mix at 20-18 at one stage.

But coach Jake White felt that his team will be better for the experience as they try to knock over Leinster.

“It was nerve-wracking for 80 minutes! We got a try and then a line-break, and dropped the ball over the try-line. Dropped four kick-offs in a row,” the former Springbok mentor said.

“But one thing that I’m happy about – because it’s like a bitter-sweet feeling – is that we found a way to win. We have grown as a squad... I think we would’ve lost that game two years ago.

“Even the way we closed it off, I thought Willie (le Roux) was outstanding, the way he dictated from the back there by keeping them in their half.

“Those are things we can fix, though. We dropped four kick-offs, so now it looks like they get four scrums in your 22.

“Next week it’s Leinster: I don’t have to say anything. They drilled us there, so what am I going to say that’s going to make them feel differently about getting up for this game?

“If we win that game, we go to Munster, who beat us here – I don’t have to say anything.

“Let’s recover, let’s get ready – let’s get our bodies right. It’s not going to get any easier now, as it’s Leinster and could easily be Munster over the next two weekends.

“I can’t think we are doomed now because this has happened, and the scrum didn’t dominate, and we’ve lost another winger... There’s 160 minutes left, and let’s be fair: All of you never thought Benetton could beat us and they nearly did.

“The chances are we’ve probably got no chance against Leinster and Munster, in everyone’s eyes – but that’s sometimes a nice place to be, because Benetton showed that if you really play well, you can win a knock-out game.”

— SuperSport Rugby (@SSRugby) June 8, 2024

White also implored Bulls fans to fill up Loftus on Saturday, after a meagre crowd of 19 243 were in attendance for the Benetton clash.

“The one thing I would beg the media to say this week is that we are going to need everybody here. We need 52 000 people here, like we did against the Stormers. It’s no use getting a home game and not using that as an advantage.

“And I understand: It’s the middle of the month and people struggle – they don’t always have a lot of money to pay. It’s two kids and a wife, so that’s four tickets, and it’s a quarter-final, semi-final and two Springbok Tests (in Gauteng), and one is at Loftus.

“So, the average guy who lives in Pretoria doesn’t really have the income to go to the quarter-final, semi-final and Ireland Test match.

“So, my plea to the public is that we are going to need them. We need the opposition to feel that the Loftus faithful are actually in full cry.

“Hopefully, guys in Joburg can also drive down the highway and come and watch. Let’s be fair, this is the dress rehearsal for the Test match at Loftus, because they are going to bring almost the Irish team here.”


Bulls 30 – Tries: Kurt-Lee Arendse (2), David Kriel. Conversions: Johan Goosen (3). Penalties: Goosen (3).

Benetton 23 – Tries: Onisi Ratave, Tomas Albornoz, Malakai Fekitoa. Conversions: Rhyno Smith (1). Penalties: Smith (2).