UKZN pair to help?

2014-01-21 00:00

JAKE White wants former All Black coach John Mitchell and Springbok flyhalf Butch James to help in the coaching of the Sharks this Super Rugby season.

Mitchell, who is now the director of rugby at the University of KZN and coaches the first team (the Impis), is being assisted by James, who has now retired from rugby.

But White, the new Sharks director of rugby, also wants the pair coaching at King’s Park.

“I have an interest in getting John Mitchell involved in the franchise,” said White. “He’s coached the All Blacks and he has massive amounts of experience. I’ve already spoken with him about it.

“A guy like him and Butch James could also help with our junior squads. That would be good for recruitment because people will know we’re taking our junior rugby seriously.

“It would also help us create a pathway for coach development. It can only do Butch’s career the world of good in the long term,” said White.

The former Springbok coach said the Sharks’ pre-season preparation was progressing well.

“What I have really enjoyed is working with the next group of players [before the Springboks rejoined the squad].

“It’s not ideal not to have your Springboks there, because you want to get hands on with those players for as long as possible, but it gave me an opportunity to see what’s in the pipeline, a chance to work with skills of players who don’t get much training and coaching within the main group.

“It’s also gone well from the point of view of those who have had rehab following surgery in the off-season.”

White said the Sharks were preparing exceptionally hard for a tough Super Rugby season.

“We’re here [at King’s Park] all day from 7 am to 6 pm. Time will tell if those sacrifices we’re making and the hard yards we’re putting in are going to be the difference between where the Sharks finished in the past and where we would like to end.”

He said the gap between success and failure was small.

“The Sharks played in the final two years ago, then came eighth last year. It shows how small the margins are and showed how important attention to detail is.

“There is no doubt they want to win and there is no doubt there are great resources available here. We have very good players here and no one doubts that they really want to win this competition.

“What I can focus on is making sure we are a little more accurate and there is complete attention to detail in every­thing we do — that we don’t just go through the motions.”

The new Sharks have their first airing on Saturday when they take on Saracens, the England’s Premiership leaders, in London.

And scrumhalf Charl McLeod, who scored two tries in the superb Currie Cup final win over Western Province late in October, is hoping the Sharks can pick up where they left off at Newlands.

“Last year’s Currie Cup did a lot of good for us, giving a lot of youngsters a taste of what’s to come, and if we can carry on the vibe that we had, and take it into the Super Rugby competition, we should be successful,” he told the Sharks website yesterday.

McLeod said that preparations for the new season had been intense with White introducing a number of changes.

“We’ve been working extremely hard but everyone has reacted well and we’re doing well.”

He said battle-hardened Saracens would provide the Sharks with a massive test.

“Saracens are a very good team. They top the Premiership log at the moment, playing some great rugby in the premiership and Heineken Cup.

“They’re in the middle of their season and have momentum going into this match while this will be our first game. But we’ll pitch up for the game in the right frame of mind and hopefully give them a good run.

“It’s important to get our structures right in this game and there is a lot of new stuff we’re doing. We also need to settle into our new way of playing as quickly as possible and see how it works for us,” said McLeod.

SuperSport will screen the match on CSN, SS1 and SHD from 4.15 pm on Saturday.

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