URC Grand Final: Bulls v Glasgow: hosts boosted by return of Kurt-Lee Arendse

But Willie le Roux misses out following head injury versus Leinster

Ruan Nortje will captain the Vodacom Bulls in Saturday evening's URC Grand Final against Glasgow Warriors. Image: © Craig Watson -www.craigwatson.co.uk
Ruan Nortje will captain the Vodacom Bulls in Saturday evening's URC Grand Final against Glasgow Warriors. Image: © Craig Watson -www.craigwatson.co.uk

VODACOM BULLS head coach Jake White says being given the favourites tag for tomorrow [Saturday] night’s URC Grand Final clash against Glasgow Warriors in Prertoria is like water off a duck’s back to his team.

With home advantage in South Africa’s Highveld, the Bulls have not had the challenge of a 13 hour flight this week to get to the game, and will be playing in front of a full-house which will be almost all passionate home supporters at the iconic 51,000 capacity Loftus Versfeld Stadium.

The Bulls are boosted by the return of livelier Springbok winger Kurt-Lee Arendse, who missed his team’s semi-final win over Leinster last weekend with a fractured facial bone, but the experienced Willie le Roux will not be provide his game management ability  at full-back due to a concussion.


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“We were favourites last week against Leinster as well so it’s something that we’re getting used to now,” said White during this morning’s team announcement press conference. “Those days of everyone thinking we are underdogs [are gone].

“But favourites count for nothing. Last week people told me that Leinster should be underdogs but I don’t get involved in that. Munster and Leinster are two incredible sides and Glasgow and the Bulls beat them last weekend so there should be no reason why [favourite status should matter].

“One thing about the URC that has been fantastic since it started is that there has been no guarantee that just because you have a certain amount of players or because you rank higher or because you’re seen by the media as the favourites, it’s not necessarily a given that you should win.

“I’m not going to give a headline story where I’ve said that we’re the favourites and that there’s no chance that Glasgow can win.

“I’m fully aware of the fact that Glasgow played really well against Munster. Not many teams have beaten Munster, not just in Munster but anywhere. This year they won about 11 games in a row and last year they won about nine in a row to win the competition. So to do what Glasgow did last week – I’d probably make them favourites.”

On the changes to the back three, White said: “With Willie, I think in the old, old, old days probably a doctor would have asked ‘Can you see my three fingers?’ and he would have said ‘Yes’ and he would have been available to play. But you can imagine now with protocols and concussion and the fear of head injuries, which I understand, there’s no way we could fast-track anything.

“He failed his HIA, there’s an obligatory time that you have to be off. He wants to play, he keeps saying he thinks he’s fine, and that’s a great sign for where we are as a group, because everyone wants to be part of this final.

“The doctor was impressed and really happy with how Kurt-Lee has recovered. Obviously you can’t target anyone’s head – it’s actually illegal to play, a guy around his head – so there’s no fear of anything other than the fact that he wants to be a part of it. The doctor says he’s happy, the specialist says he’s happy. To have him back, especially because we’re losing a guy with Willie’s experience, is fantastic for us.”

 

 

Warriors lost 40-34 when they played the Bulls at Loftus during the regular season just over a month ago, and White explained that this was a useful experience for his team ahead of this winner-take-all showdown.

“One thing we did take away from that game is that we had the foot on their throats but dropped the ball when we could have been 40 points – David Kriel went through a hole on their 22 and tried to offload but the ball went to ground – and I think what we then realised that Glasgow just don’t go away.

“Sometimes as a coach, and as a group of players, when you allow them to come back like that it is probably a good thing for us, because we will never go into this game under-estimating the fact that it won’t be one-sided.

“Having said that, it is a completely different fixture, because in that game there was a lot of talk about how they needed four tries to finish first on the log, and therefore their mind-set will have been completely different to what it is in this final, I would think.

“So, the takeouts is that we won’t underestimate, and that even though we were on top of them for a long period of time, we still had to work hard to finish off that game. And I think that is something which is going to be good for us as a group because we won’t go in there thinking it is going to be one-sided.”

“The most important message for me is: ‘Let’s just do what we did last week’. There’s no more they can do. I think last week the way they played and the things they did were good enough to beat a team like Leinster that had been in three European Cup finals.

“There is no secret remedy. It’s a final, you’ve just got to do the things that you’ve been doing well – especially what you did last week. For me, that was outstanding.

 

 

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“We’ve had lots of guys come in [this week] – Bakkies Botha has come in and had a chat to them, who has won European Cups, three times Super Rugby, the French Championship, Tri-Nations, British & Irish Lions series  – and the message is always the same: just do the things you do well and the rest of the game will look after itself.

“That’s basically what I’m going to try and push in the next 24 hours. We’ve just got to try and do what we do well. What we’ve done well the whole year. And that will be enough for me. That’s enough, because I think everyone will understand that we’ve given it a good go.”

White added; “I’ve got a stat here that says the last time it [Loftuis Versfeld] was sold out was when the Vodacom Bulls played the Brumbies in 2013 which is 11 years ago. And I’m so chuffed as that day I was coaching the Brumbies!

“So we’re looking forward to it. I said to the boys: ‘Who would have thought four years ago with Covid that we’d ever be sitting thinking there’s a full house at Loftus?’ I remember the final at Cape Town it was still Covid and they could only have 35,000 in the lower tier. It’s definitely going to be something that is unique.”

 

Vodacom Bulls (versus Glasgow Warriors at Loftus Vers on Saturday @ 5pm BST): D Williams; S Peterson, D Kriel, H Vorster, K Arendse; J Goosen, E Papier; G Steenkamp, J Grabbelaar, W Louw, R Vermaak, R Nortje ©, M van Staden, E Louw, C Hanekom. Replacements: A van der Merwe, A Matanzima, F Klopper, R Ludwig, N Carr, Z Burger, C Smith, C Smit.


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About David Barnes 4026 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

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