The Star Late Edition

Juggernaut Bulls now eye Europe

- ASHFAK MOHAMED ashfak.mohamed@inl.co.za

HAVING conquered South Africa a few times now, the Bulls want to be a major player on the internatio­nal stage again.

Just like they did when they became the first, and only local team to win the Super Rugby title, the Pretoria outfit are eyeing the Rainbow Cup title – and who knows, a European Cup spot may beckon after that.

After dismantlin­g the Sharks 43-9 at Loftus on Saturday night – which followed last season’s Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup titles – the Bulls are now unbeaten in 13 matches at home under coach Jake White.

They top the log with 13 points from three games, and while they still have to take on the Lions

(away), Stormers (home) and Sharks (away), White’s face lit up when he was asked afterwards about last Friday’s announceme­nt of an imminent North v South Rainbow Cup final in Europe on June 19.

“I just cut it out and put it on to the change-room doors when we got here today, hoping that the players realise it’s a massive opportunit­y for them to play against a northernhe­misphere side. And everyone’s hoping to play overseas,” the former Springbok coach said.

“It’s fantastic, fantastic for this group, and hopefully we get a chance to measure up against a northern-hemisphere side.

“But saying that, we’ve got a lot of work to do. Things change so quickly in seven days. The Lions, I thought, were unlucky (against the Stormers), and they will be fronting up this weekend at Ellis Park (on Saturday, 3.30pm kickoff) as well.

“So, it is a bonus, but we’re not going to be jumping too soon. We’re going to have to still get the work done.”

In addition, Bulls president Willem Strauss said yesterday that with reports in the French media suggesting that the prize for the Rainbow Cup final is “possible qualificat­ion for a Heineken Cup spot, this competitio­n has become increasing­ly important to us”.

And that would be a duly earned reward for White’s Bulls juggernaut, who absorbed some early pressure from the Sharks and responded after halftime with a show of force as their forwards dominated to such an extent that opposition coach Sean Everitt was moved to say that his pack had been “manhandled”.

But it wasn’t just all brawn, as the Bulls scored four tries and played some enterprisi­ng attacking rugby too.

“I think it was a team performanc­e. What was important is that the forwards and backs played well, and I think Duane Vermeulen was outstandin­g. His captaincy was unbelievab­le, the way he led the team, but also how he handled the whole situation with the referee,” White said.

“We worked hard and trained well this week, and a few things that we tried came through in the last 10 minutes. We are very fit, and I think our conditioni­ng coaches have done outstandin­g work.

“We enjoy our rugby and enjoy the fact that we are doing well.

We’ve only been a year with this group of coaches and players, and we are still learning.”

 ?? BackpagePi­x ?? RUAN Nortje was one of the heroes for the Bulls against the Sharks. |
BackpagePi­x RUAN Nortje was one of the heroes for the Bulls against the Sharks. |

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