Jake White bulls champions cup
Bulls coach, Jake White. Photo: Bullsrugby

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Champions Cup controversy: Bulls to escape sanction

It’s been confirmed that the Bulls were not to blame for leaving several first-choice players at home for a key Champions Cup clash.

16-04-24 12:33
Jake White bulls champions cup
Bulls coach, Jake White. Photo: Bullsrugby

The Bulls fielded a weakened second-string side for the Champions Cup quarter-final this past weekend, leaving a host of Springbok players at home.

It was at least partially a strategic move as Bulls coach Jake White opted against exposing certain players to an arduous travel schedule to face the Northampton Saints.

In the end, as expected, the Pretoria side suffered a heavy defeat, and UK publication The Times suggested the competition organisers might take action against the Bulls considering they were concerned about damaging the Champions Cup’s credibility.

However, the same publication now reports that the EPCR has not laid the blame at the door of the Bulls, rather identifying a need for a change to next season’s knockout schedule to avoid a repeat of the Bulls selection controversy.

After an investigation from the European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) to assess if the Bulls were in breach of the participation agreement, it seems that the sentiment is rather related to the poor scheduling that saw the Round of 16 and quarter-finals take place on consecutive weekends.


After the game, White sought to set the record straight.

“I’ve got to stress, because I think people are reading it completely wrong that I’m not whinging about being here, in fact I’m loving this competition. I’m loving the fact that we get exposed to this and I’m loving that these players can learn what they learned tonight,” White explained when asked about the supposed “disrespect”,” he told reporters.

“It is so close to test rugby. I mean maybe the style varies a little bit, being less conservative and pragmatic compared to test rugby but the intensity is there and is the fight to win. So I want to be clear that we want to be here in this competition.

“We want to win and be that powerful side that can run out every weekend and be competitive, but you need to serve your time. It’s the second year we’ve been playing in this competition. For some guys, it’s the first time they ever flew business class. For others, it’s the first time they’ve ever come overseas, so when you put that in perspective, it demonstrates we still have a way to go.”


The Bulls ultimately fell off the pace in the second half of the quarter-final, with the hosts clinching a resounding 59-22 victory on Saturday evening.

White also reiterated that there was more than one factor that led him to leave 14 regulars at home for the clash.

“I haven’t disrespected it at all,” he added. “This is not a ‘B-Team’ or a second team. This is the team I felt needed game time, based on combinations. I wasn’t prepared to take a risk on players I will need in the back end of a competition.

“In terms of the changes, I also want to address this. As a coach, we are saying to players you’re going to get opportunities. Cameron Hanekom, the No 8 played outstandingly well, but that was his first game back in about seven or eight weeks. The left-wing Stravino Jacobs – that was his first time back in about six months from an injury. Now again, you know if I leave it another week, people say wow, why, you know he hasn’t played for so long. Why are you leaving that for so long? And the circumstances are very – you have to develop these players.

“My wishes are to get all the guys that play abroad to come back and play in this competition for the South African franchises.”

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