The inclusion of five South African franchises in the Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup raises many questions, especially within the rainbow nation where former Springbok coach Jake White fears the "
" of his compatriots.
The Champions Cup is the equivalent of the Champions League in football.
It's like playing a test match every Saturday
,” White warned in an interview with AFP.
Current manager of the Bulls franchise based in Pretoria, White, 58, is familiar with competitions involving the best clubs in the northern hemisphere having managed the Montpellier club for three years, between 2014 and 2017, guiding them to their first victory in the Challenge Cup.
In the Champions Cup, the Bulls (Lyon, Exeter), the Sharks (Harlequins, Bordeaux-Bègles) and the Stormers (Clermont, London Irish) will face two Franco-English adversaries.
We are going to face teams full of internationals.
European teams have the best players, not just from their country but from all rugby nations
,” White continued.
I fear that South Africans are a bit naive about what awaits them.
The Champions Cup teams are really better than those of URC
”, the United Rugby Championship (the championship of the Scottish, Italian, Welsh, Irish and South African provinces), which four South African franchises joined last year .
“Packs that are over a thousand kilos and rears of madness”
They have packs that are over a thousand pounds and crazy rears.
I think we're going to take a warning shot
, ”he warned again.
The reigning world champions, however, seem equipped to compete with the best teams in Europe: nineteen of the thirty-five players called up for the November tour played in one of the country's franchises.
Starting with captain Siya Kolisi (Sharks), the colossal second line Eben Etzebeth (Sharks), the pillar Steven Kitshoff (Stormers) or the swift Kurt-Lee Arendse (Bulls).
Read alsoWelcome to the South African Rugby European Cup
It's the biggest club competition.
Everyone wants to be part of it, I know a lot of guys who have gone to Europe just to play
it, ”said Sharks winger Yaw Penxe, not afraid of the long trips promised.
Same story on the side of expatriates, like the international opener of Leicester Handré Pollard: “
The arrival of South African franchises in Europe will be interesting.
They will give a new flavor to the competition.
We are not used to playing rugby in January at home.
It will be hot and humid whereas in Europe, snow is announced!
I'm curious to see how the teams will adapt to that
, ”explained the former Montpellier player.
“People in South Africa have not yet realized how huge this competition is”
Young South African players, who don't often have the opportunity to play in full stadiums, will discover the hottest atmospheres in Europe, like Clermont or Bordeaux, and it will be great for them.
People in South Africa have not yet realized what the Champions Cup represents and how huge this competition is.
They will be surprised!
", he added.
The South Africans will however have to be wary of the refereeing, which is different in Europe.
Referees in the Top 14 interpret the rules in a certain way, their counterparts in England, Ireland or Scotland sometimes see things differently
," White detailed.
Another concern is the climate.
You play on rock-hard pitches, in 30 degrees, one weekend and then you face freezing cold, high winds and torrential rain seven days later
,” anticipated the opener. Bulls Chris Smith.
The altitude could also disrupt some European teams, especially in Pretoria where the Bulls' Loftus Versfeld Stadium is nearly 1,500 meters above sea level.