Sunday Times

Memes await White in towering encounter

- KEO UNCUT Mark Keohane is the founder of, a multiple award-winning sports writer and the digital content director at Habari Media. Twitter: @mark_keohane

Jake White was bullish in dismissing the performanc­e of the Lions a week ago. Some would say it was more arrogance and petulance than being bullish. I reckon it was just relief.

White’s Bulls, leading the South African charge in the United Rugby Championsh­ip (URC) with seven wins from 10, could have lost to the Lions at Loftus Versfeld. The Lions replacemen­t flyhalf Jordan Hendrikse missed from 55 metres with the last kick of the game.

The Bulls won by two points, and when the two teams met in Johannesbu­rg, the match appeared headed for a similar finish. The Bulls led 5-3 after a turgid first-half. They found their groove in the second, aided by the Lions imploding, and the result was a comfortabl­e win by the Bulls.

White afterwards said the Lions were the weakest attacking team they had played, offering nothing on attack and relying on a moment of a player’s brilliance or an intercept.

He said they never put his side under pressure, and his final nail in the Lions coffin was that they couldn’t put together phases and never put the Bulls under any sustained “ball in hand” phase play pressure.

It is easy to be bullish when winning, but bullish is one thing White has not been after matches against the Stormers in the history of the URC.

If anything, White has been the butt of jokes from within the Western Cape when his team lost for a sixth successive time in the URC play-off against John Dobson’s Stormers last season.

The memes were quickly dominant, with White feasting on a donut. It got worse for him earlier this season when the Bulls lost for a seventh successive time to Stormers.

Now memes are starting to emerge of Jake White at a pool table, staring down a black eight ball

The memes were more damning this time and more creative. Among them was White being served the soft drink 7-Up, which wouldn’t have gone down smoothly. Another had Stormers and Boks flyhalf Manie Libbok on the attack, with the ball replaced by a giant can of 7-Up.

Now memes are starting to emerge of White, at a pool table, staring down a black eight ball.

White’s Bulls, for all their success this season and off-season player spend, could lose for an eighth successive time to the Stormers in the URC.

The Stormers, without the 2023 World Cup-winning quartet of Frans Malherbe, Deon Fourie, Libbok and Damian Willemse, were still good enough to beat the Sharks in Durban last weekend.

It took them to six wins in 10 matches and continued a remarkable dominance against their South African rivals in the URC. The Stormers have won 16, drawn one and lost just one against the Bulls (seven),

Sharks (five wins and a draw) and Lions

(five wins and a home defeat) since the launch of the URC.

The competitio­n is now into its third season and the Stormers, winners of the inaugural final and beaten home finalists last season, will bag a third successive South African shield with victory in Pretoria.

Dobson, in each one of the seven wins, has been understate­d in his public celebratio­ns. White has been overstated in his press conference reactions and he has taken each defeat as a personal slight, which may be understand­able as no coach has ever beaten a White-coached team seven times in a row.

Dobson has downplayed the dominance but, for his players, this is the win they crave most, especially in Pretoria. The Stormers players reserve their best for the Bulls, as if to make a point to the Bok coach.

Veteran Stormers loose-forward Deon Fourie made his Bok statement against the Bulls in the past two seasons, and Rassie Erasmus, in omitting the World Cup winner from his initial national alignment squad, may well have put White’s Bulls firmly behind the black eight ball.

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