CAPE TOWN - When you think Jake White, you think it’s all about winning.
The Bulls coach has already been triumphant in his short time at Loftus Versfeld, as his team won both the Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup titles last season.
But it appears as if the former Springbok coach is preparing for ‘bigger fish to fry’ in the shape of the PRO16 – or even the European Champions Cup – next season.
So, tonight’s Rainbow Cup SA clash against the Lions at Loftus Versfeld (7pm kick-off) is all about moulding a squad good enough to take on the best of Europe.
Judging by the selections of both teams, it looks like the Lions’ Ivan van Rooyen has gone down that route too.
So, here are three factors that will decide tonight’s match …
Executing on attack
White said that he has deliberately picked an “athletic team” to try to take on the Lions, to “keep the ball alive and attack”. New signing James Verity-amm and experienced centre Cornal Hendricks are able to side-step their tacklers, while wing Stravino Jacobs is a powerhouse out wide.
But they haven’t played much together in recent months, whereas the Lions have a settled backline, even without Elton Jantjies.
Wandisile Simelane is the man to watch in the visitors’ back division, and will be hard to stop.
The Bulls loose trio of captain Nizaam Carr, Elrigh Louw and Marco van Staden possess all the right elements, and could sway things in favour of the home side.
While Jantjies is in France, the Lions possess a monster kicker in Tiaan Swanepoel, who can slot penalties from beyond his own 10m line, so the Bulls cannot afford to get on the wrong side of referee Rasta Rasivhenge.
But Bulls No 10 Chris Smith has been a solid performer and slotted some pressure goal kicks of his own before.
The tactical kicking duel may have an even bigger influence, though, and that is where scrumhalves Embrose Papier and André Warner will have a major role to play.
Papier is renowned for his speed across the ground, but has said he’s worked hard on his kicking game under Bulls consultant Fourie du Preez’s watch.
Warner’s box-kicks are usually on point, and both No 9s will look to take some of the pressure off their flyhalves.
Both teams are missing vital cogs in the scrum and line-out – the Lions are missing Willem Alberts, Jaco Kriel, Hacjivah Dayimani and Jaco Visagie, and Marvin Orie has joined the Stormers, while the Bulls don’t have captain Duane Vermeulen, Trevor Nyakane and Sintu Manjezi.
Lions No 3 Jannie du Plessis will want to show that there is still life in those 38-year-old bones, but the Bulls may have the edge in both facets.
The dynamic front row of Gerhard Steenekamp, Johan Grobbelaar and Mornay Smith have shown that they don’t need to take a backward step to any scrum, while Louw is a powerful ball-carrier and excellent line-out jumper, where he will rely on the workhorse Ruan Nortjé to make the right calls.
Teams For Loftus Versfeld
Bulls: 15 James Verity-amm 14 Madosh Tambwe 13 Marco Jansen van Vuren 12 Cornal Hendricks 11 Stravino Jacobs 10 Chris Smith 9 Embrose Papier 8 Nizaam Carr (captain) 7 Elrigh Louw 6 Marco van Staden 5 Ruan Nortje 4 Janko Swanepoel 3 Mornay Smith 2 Johan Grobbelaar 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Bench: 16 Joe van Zyl 17 Lizo Gqoboka 18 Jacques van Rooyen 19 Walt Steenkamp 20 Arno Botha 21 Zak Burger 22 Morné Steyn 23 David Kriel.
Lions: 15 Tiaan Swanepoel 14 Stean Pienaar 13 Wandisile Simelane 12 Dan Kriel (captain) 11 Courtnall Skosan 10 Fred Zeilinga 9 André Warner 8 Francke Horn 7 Vincent Tshituka 6 MJ Pelser 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys 4 Ruben Schoeman 3 Jannie du Plessis 2 PJ Botha 1 Sti Sithole.
Bench: 16 Morné Brandon 17 Nathan Mcbeth 18 Carlu Sadie 19 Reinhard Nothnagel 20 Emmanuel Tshituka 21 Sibusiso Sangweni 22 Morné van den Berg 23 EW Viljoen.