Jake White ‘very excited about seeing how Chris Smith adapts and takes his chance’ as Bulls flyhalf in Currie Cup final
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CAPE TOWN – Chris Smith has had enough game time to ensure that he is ready to fill Johan Goosen’s considerable boots for the Bulls in Saturday’s Currie Cup final against the Sharks.
That was the view of Bulls coach Jake White after Smith was named at No 10 on Friday in place of Goosen, who is out of the Loftus Versfeld decider due to Covid-19.
“Not comparing, but it is like it is – when you look at the minutes that Tim Swiel played for Province, and over the last couple of months that Curwin Bosch played at 10, the lack of game time the other players got who were understudies to those players, it comes back to bite you when you haven’t prepared like that,” White said on Friday.
“I’m confident that a guy like Chris has had enough experience. He’s played and trained enough with this group, and he’s managed to get some success in this group, which gives them confidence as well.
“And let’s be fair – I’ve got to back Goosen not to be with us forever. He’s going to be in the Springbok set-up… That’s how I see it. And if he is, we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got a capable lieutenant, and I think we do.
“Opportunity is a fantastic thing in sport, and I am very excited about seeing how Chris adapts and takes his chance, because that’s what it’s all about.”
Smith will also be hoping that his pack of forwards provide front-foot ball in order to avoid the nightmare of Treviso, where a retreating back contributed to a difficult afternoon for the pivot in the Rainbow Cup final defeat to Benetton in June.
“Things in rugby never change – you need a tight-five, you need forwards to play well, and whether it’s a final or a playoff game, you need your pack to be cohesive,” White said.
“I think he’s good enough, and he has to adapt. I spend a lot of time with Naas (Botha), and he always says when the pressure is on, the 10 has got to get closer to the action.”
The former Springbok coach made a huge selection decision at hooker, where he went with Joe van Zyl ahead of Schalk Erasmus – who is out of the match-23 – and youngster Jan-Hendrik Wessels.
“Joe does his basics really well, and Schalk came out of the game last week with… He is alright now, but he wasn’t alright to train on Monday and Tuesday, and I just thought we are going to prepare with a proper team,” White said.
“We are not going to try to get guys who are 50-50 in by Thursday, so at this point in time, Joe trained Monday and Tuesday and gave us good prep time, and I’ve obviously got Jan-Hendrik, who I have lots of faith in, on the bench.”