Bruised Bulls face 20-hour flight to Champions quarter in Northampton

09 April 2024 - 13:43
By Mahlatse Mphahlele
Bulls coach Jake White says his team have challenging travel logistics to get to their Champions Cup semifinal clash against Northampton.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images Bulls coach Jake White says his team have challenging travel logistics to get to their Champions Cup semifinal clash against Northampton.

The Bulls have complex travel logistics to negotiate to get to their Champions Cup quarterfinal showdown against Northampton at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday night. 

Speaking at Loftus before his team's departure for the UK, Bulls coach Jake White said the players leave on Tuesday night on eight different airlines on an arduous journey that will take more than 20 hours. 

“I have said it before that it’s not ideal when you talk about high performance sport and being able to be competitive,” the former Springbok coach said as the Bulls held their final training session at a rainy Loftus on Tuesday.

“There are not too many sporting teams that will leave on eight different airlines on a Tuesday evening to [get to] a Saturday night game.

“For whatever reason and I am sure the powers that be will sort it out, but it isn’t what was expected. We were sold that it is going to be an overnight flight, that is why we are playing in Europe. 

“Two weeks ago we went to Leinster and it took us 28 hours to get there and 27 hours to get back, and whether we like it or not it comes at a cost. Whether we fly business class [or not]. I am fortunate the board pays business class for our starting team, which is a fantastic gesture. 

“It is a huge bonus [for the starting XV] but no sporting team flies 28 hours and with eight different airplanes, some to Birmingham or London where they are going to land at different times.” 

White said his squad departs with players who are not fully recovered after a bruising round of 16 win over Lyon at Loftus on Saturday.

“In an ideal world I would have liked to have left on Wednesday night and landed on Thursday. When you leave on Tuesday, guys are sore after a really tough game against Lyon. 

“Because it was 59-19, people assume it was not a tough fixture. It’s a French team that plays a certain style and they ask different physical attributes of you. 59-19 can sometimes be a tougher fixture for you.

“Leaving on Tuesday gives you limited time because on Monday the players were sore, on Tuesday you are trying to complete as much preparations as you can and you are going to get there on Thursday.

“You can’t have two teams training against each other because you don’t have enough players to tour. All those factors are important and I want to remind you that Leinster came here last year and sent a team that we beat by 60 points. 

“Leinster, who have more than 30 internationals, had to do that to give themselves a chance of winning two competitions. We are talking about a club that has invested years and years into academy development, producing Irish internationals. Even them, they had to juggle [due to travel logistics]. 

“We only manage what is given to us as best as we can and what has been given to us is a short week. On Tuesday we fly out, Thursday limited training time because of limited numbers. 

“We arrive on Thursday and hopefully by lunchtime everyone should be in the hotel and we have to be ready for a training session that afternoon.

“The difficulty is coming back because everyone has to go back via different journeys around the world. Some come back via Doha, Dubai, Frankfurt. It is not ideal but we will get there.”