Sharks Director of Rugby Jake White has declared himself satisfied after Friday night’s 57-14 victory over a weakened Lions team, stating that several important boxes were ticked in the process.
“What we wanted out of this game was to get stuff right,” said White via a Sharks press release. “The things that we worked on, we got right and that gives confidence which is exactly what you want out of these games. I said to the guys afterwards that we came out of the game without injuries and we got what we wanted out of the game and got individual performances where guys put their hands up. We got unit performances where they work well as a unit, combinations worked well, the team played well. So for us what was so pleasing was that all of those boxes were ticked. It made no difference who the Lions put on to play for them, we were always going to go there with a checklist of what we wanted to get right and some of those things we got really right which is also pleasing.”
White was particularly full of praise for a player who stepped up in an unfamiliar position after a challenging last few seasons, S’bura Sithole. “At 13, he was unbelievable, he was phenomenal actually” said White. “That bodes well for us because we are probably a bit short in the centres, especially at outside centre, so for him to have played the way he did and to put up his hand as he did, was obviously very pleasing. He’s a case in point of a player taking his chance. He definitely made people sit up and watch.”
“Don’t underestimate having Francois Steyn next to Patrick Lambie,” White continued, “the fact that anything that happens outside them is always going to be dangerous. Having a 10-12 combination like that adds value to everyone else outside them. And that’s what was so pleasing about S’bura coming in and playing so well. He played without those two guys and I wonder what he’d be like if he played in combination with those two. We have an attacking backline and considering we don’t yet have JP Pietersen back yet, when he does, there is more value there. The forwards are talented, it’s about making sure we keep those backs fit and strong.”
Looking forwards to the Bulls game this weekend, White is clearly excited and nervous in equal measures. “There is no doubt that there will be first game jitters and some nerves, and then there are the conditions here which are the heat and humidity. The first couple of weeks are always tough to hold on to the ball – for all teams. One just hopes for us that we play as well as we can in terms of the things we’ve tried to do. The things we’ve spoken about are trying to use the conditions that are going to be available to us. I’ve used the experience of players and coaches who have been here before.
“Let’s be fair, the Bulls are the most successful Super franchise in South Africa and they aren’t going to come here and hand over what we want. It’s a derby game, the first game of the tournament for both sides and a lot of media hype about the fact that we have this talented squad. I think it’s going to be a very interesting game, an eye-opener for South African rugby.”Tweet