The Citizen (KZN)

White’s huge balancing act

- With Jacques van der Westhuyzen

Jake White has been in the news over the last few days for the team he selected to play in the Champions Cup quarterfin­al against Northampto­n Saints in England on Saturday night.

For the record, White picked no recent World Cup-winning Bok players, like Willie le Roux, Canan Moodie, Kurt-Lee Arendse, nor other Boks like Johan Goosen, Wilco Louw, and Embrose Papier, and a few other form men who’d ordinarily be considered first choice picks. Others like Marcell Coetzee and Marco van Staden are known to be carrying injuries.

White insisted on Friday he had not picked a B-team for the quarterfin­al match and that it was his best team for the game. He insisted that some of the players who’d not travelled to Europe had been left at home on medical advice.

According to reports coming out of Europe, White and the Bulls are to be investigat­ed by the EPCR for fielding an under-strength side.

Needless to say, the Bulls lost the match to the Saints 59-22.

It is understand­able there is a lot of rugby and it’s hard battling on two fronts – the Champions Cup and the United Rugby Championsh­ip – and that some players might be nursing niggles, White and Co are possibly prioritisi­ng the URC.

While the Bulls are wellplaced in the competitio­n, it’s still not on to pick anything but your strongest team for Europe’s elite competitio­n in the quarterfin­al stage.

There’s no way the team that ran out on Saturday is the best team White could have selected and while he said last week he wasn’t under-valuing the Champions Cup by his selections, the question needs to be asked – if it was a final would he have picked the same matchday-23?

For a union as big and as ambitious as the Bulls and White, they showed no ambition or desire to actually challenge for the Champions Cup based on selections.

It’s one thing to give opportunit­ies to fringe players and mix and match in group games and against weaker teams, but not in the “Champions League” quarterfin­als.

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