Maintaining momentum is important for Sharks, says White

2014-05-23 00:00

SHARKS director of rugby Jake White has highlighted the importance of “keeping the momentum going” when the Super Rugby leaders take on the Blues in Albany today.

The clash at North Harbour Stadium is the final one of what has been a successful Australasian tour to date with the three matches against the Rebels, Brumbies and Crusaders yielding two wins and nine points — a dramatic turnaround for South African sides overseas in 2014.

It has enabled the Durban franchise to move to 40 points, five ahead of the Brumbies and Chiefs at the summit, although the defending champions from Waikato do have a game in hand.

After the highs of conquering Christchurch last weekend, White knows the importance of backing that up with a win against a team where they have enjoyed plenty of recent success. “We have to keep the momentum going,” the Sharks boss said. “It’s extremely important after last week.”

The 30-25 win over the Crusaders was not only their second win, but also just the second by all South African sides on tour this season after none managed to win in either Australia or New Zealand.

“There was a lot of talk before we left home about how hard it is to tour and how South African sides have toured badly,” White explained. “There were questions asked why South African sides aren’t winning away from home.

“So to come over and beat the Crusaders after such a drought of wins against them in Christchurch is massive. I have no doubt it will be massive for the remainder of the tournament.

“We are also obviously mindful of the fact that we can’t jump the gun. We still have two more games before the June recess and we can’t slip up now.”

The Sharks could not have asked for better opposition to end the tour against, for history suggests the Blues are among their favourite pickings.

They have beaten the Aucklanders in their last nine meetings, four of which have been away, with the run stretching back to almost 10 years.

It is the best ever record by a local franchise against any overseas opponent.

Springbok back Frans Steyn warned of the dangers of the Blues’ backline earlier in the week when he said “they have some good game breakers and are going to test our defence” with White echoing those sentiments ahead of the meeting with the New Zealand Conference’s bottom side, who sit 10th on the overall table.

“They have got some dangerous outside backs and they’ll definitely try to run at us,” White said. “We’ll have to defend well.”

The Sharks will also look to continue their improvement of their own attack, which showed some decent bite last week on the way to scoring three tries despite playing most of the game with 14 men.

“We need to make sure that the rest of our game is good enough as well, we can’t rely on defence only,” White added. “We got away with it against the Crusaders but I don’t think you can defend like that week in and week out. We are going to have to create some pressure when we are attacking as well.”

The selection of veteran Jacques Botes at flank was the only change for the Sharks after Jean Deysel’s three-week red card suspension.

The Sharks return from New Zealand on Sunday.

Today’s match will be telecast on SuperSport 1 and SuperSport HD.

Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Sibusiso Sithole, 12 Paul Jordaan, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Francois Steyn, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Willem Alberts, 7 Lubabalo Mtembu, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Ryan Kankowski, 20 Keegan Daniel, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Heimar Williams.

Kick-off: 9.35 am (SA time)

Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand).

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