Cape Town — Signing a few tighthead props — and a couple of new players in other positions — will be one of the priorities for the Bulls to help get their United Rugby Championship campaign back on track next year.
The lack of experienced back-up on the right-hand side of the scrum was laid bare in the 30-16 defeat to the Sharks on Friday night, as rookie Robert Hunt and Lizo Gqoboka — who is trying to change into a tighthead from loosehead — felt the heat from Sharks No 1 Ntuthuko Mchunu at Kings Park, who was awarded a number of penalties by referee Jaco Peyper.
The Bulls are now in 15th position on the 16-team log with five points, after four losses in five away matches, and are next scheduled to face Zebre in Italy on January 8 – although that might change, due to the Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Asked if he felt that the Bulls had met their match in the shape of the powerful Sharks outfit, White said: “When you say we met our match… The reality was that this was always going to be (a tough game for the Bulls). This is the most experienced provincial/club team in South Africa.
“They had five players who won the World Cup a couple of years ago, and a couple of guys who had come back from the end-of-year tour. Sbu Nkosi and Thomas du Toit weren’t involved, but they’re still part of the mix.
“It was always going to be a tough game. We’ve been plodding along as a group, and we have been very happy about how we have been developing. But there is still lots of work to do – lots of things we need to look at in terms of how we are going to strengthen our squad.
“The Sharks have brought in an Argentinian flyhalf, a Samoan, an Australian… We’ve got to find ways — whether it’s bringing in personnel or whether it’s up-skilling the ones we have — we are going to have to find a way in which we can be competitive, because this was always going to be that game that people would’ve spoken about.
“But we get to play them at Loftus, as we haven’t played a home game yet — we’ve played five away games. So, it has been quite a tough start for us as a group. That happens when you are the number-one side in the country.”
The Bulls players will be given a few weeks off now over the festive season, and are planning to assemble again after Christmas to prepare for the Zebre match.
White, though, is positive that they can get their URC campaign back on track in 2022.
“There are things in our scrum we’ve got to get right. There are a couple of personnel changes that we’ll bring in — obviously we will get more experienced tighthead props involved in the next couple of games,” he said.
“We’ve got a couple of outside backs that we could still use, and it’s all part of a long season that we have to play. So, from a personnel point of view, there are a couple of things… I think we need to be a little bit smarter about how we control the ball.
“I’m very positive about the fact that there’s a long year, and after that, we are straight into another URC competition, and then we go into another Currie Cup.
“So, with this group of players, we are going to be together for a while now, and we have to find ways in which we grow and develop over the next couple of years — not just in the short term.
“We are going to plan as though we are going to come back at the end of December, and we are going to get ready for that first fixture in January — that’s where we are now, until it changes.”
White added that captain Marcell Coetzee had taken a blow to the head in the first half, and it was decided not to bring him back on to the field after a head injury assessment (HIA).