Bulls coach White apologises to Farrell, takes aim at Loftus booers
Locals took aim at often controversial former England captain, booing whenever he lined up a kick for goal
While delighted with his team’s 27-16 win over Saracens in their Champions Cup pool match on Saturday, Bulls director of rugby Jake White was less pleased with the performance of the Loftus crowd.
The locals took aim at the often controversial former England and current Saracens captain Owen Farrell by booing him whenever he lined up a kick for goal.
Farrell is one of the game’s polarising figures, and the Loftus crowd made it known in which camp they are rooted.
“I am apologising for all the booing of Owen Farrell,” White said. “It is not who we are,” said White, though he may need to do more convincing on that front.
The former Bok coach was a little bewildered by the crowd’s behaviour and was keen to distance his team from what emanated from the stands.
“I don’t understand why. People have just jumped on the bandwagon in terms of all the negative media. He’s an unbelievable player. What he has achieved in England is phenomenal.
Billy Vunipola was sent off as Saracens lost their Champions Cup opener away from home against the Bulls.
“I am disappointed because I really wanted people to see him play at Loftus. You equate that to Tiger Woods playing golf, or [Michael] Jordan playing basketball. It is not really who we are. We will address that.”
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall opted to sidestep the issue. “I have nothing to say about that,” said McCall.
White was pleased with his team’s performance, though they faded in the last quarter as Saracens rallied despite being a man down after No 8 Billy Vunipola was sent off.
“I am happy, to beat a team like that,” insisted White.
“It is quite ironic people saying, ‘you should have put them away’. Saracens don’t just give you a bonus point, or they just give you ... a 50-point win. They are a championship team.”
White noted his team probably played their best rugby this year in the first 50 minutes of Saturday’s clash.
“When last did a team have three tries disallowed against Saracens and scored three tries. There are a lot of positives we will take out of that.”
Wings Canan Moodie and Kurt-Lee Arendse, as well as backrowers Elrigh Louw, Marco van Staden and Cameron Hanekom all excelled and while the Bulls bossed the collisions for three-quarters of the game, they were very much on the back foot in the latter stages.
White was keen to remind that the Bulls had four Rugby World Cup winners, while Saracens had 20 internationals in their squad.
He insisted his team will learn a lot from the experience. Their game management in particular let them down in the last half-hour as their eagerness to turn over possession at the ruck left them short whenever Saracens played wide.
“We learnt a lot from that game. The way they defended their try line not to give us a bonus point says something about the quality of the group they have.
“If you want to play at this level, even on a bad day, you have to be as ruthless as they were at the end,” he said.
Saracens certainly displayed their fighting qualities when it looked like the Bulls were set for a runaway victory.
They played with greater urgency with ball in hand after Vunipola’s dismissal, but their earlier sins ultimately caught up with them.
McCall conceded his team came off second best in the collisions, and that two yellow cards and a red also conspired against his team.
“I’m pleased we fought back hard in the second half, but disappointed with the first half,” said McCall.
The Bulls will be away to Lyon in their second pool match next week, while Saracens meet Connacht.