Ill-discipline in a rugby team is a great evil for coaches and Jake White was firm on the Bulls team’s failings in that regard in their 28-14 victory over Connacht in their United Rugby Championship match in Pretoria at the weekend.
The Bulls were incredible in defence and at times inspired in attack as they surged into a 28-0 lead after 46 minutes, but they felt the wrath of referee Andrea Piardi in the second half as Connacht finished strongly with two converted tries. In the end the home side conceded 20 penalties, and Connacht 15, while the Bulls were also given three yellow cards.
“I’m not going to justify the discipline,” coach White said afterwards. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it, we shot ourselves in the foot doing some stupid things.
“Johan Goosen was a bit unlucky, but head-to-head contact is a yellow card these days. I just hope the referees make sure they blow it that way for the whole competition.
“We play against Glasgow Warriors in Scotland next weekend and you’re not going to win too many games when you’re playing 14 against 15 men for 30 minutes, especially on tour. We spoke about the discipline after the match, but it’s no use just talking about it, there needs to be action.
“That should be driven by the players, not the coaches, and they will do that, Marcell Coetzee already told the team in the changeroom now that they have to sharpen up their discipline,” White said.
Connacht held at bay by a top-class defence
White was full of praise, however, for a top-class defensive display that held at bay a Connacht side that showed a willingness to play expansive, ball-in-hand rugby. The Bulls did not concede a single point until the 68th minute, and that was after they had been sapped by three yellow cards and were playing with 13 men due to replacement hooker Jan-Hendrik Wessels being in the sin-bin, necessitating uncontested scrums and the loss of another player.
“The defence was outstanding, considering we played eight minutes with 13 men and 30 minutes with 14,” White said. “Last week it was poor, but we spoke honestly about it and had a better shape today.
“We stopped them carrying around us and then we stopped them carrying through us. It shows me that we can defend, which is a massive bonus.
“The defence also really understood the breakdown, we were a lot smarter there, we didn’t just go in.
“Defence is not always just about line-speed, sometimes we had to be patient because they had the numbers. There was a recognition of when you need to buy time,” White said.
The smart, physical and untiring defence of the Bulls made it an uphill struggle for Connacht as they were already 14-0 down after 10 minutes and captain Jarrad Butler credited the home side for the pressure they exerted.
“It was a really good job by the Bulls defence, they forced us back inside and we had to keep resetting. Credit to them for forcing the individual errors that would keep creeping in, that meant we just could not finish off, we kept just giving them the ball,” Butler said.