Only a win would do

2014-03-31 00:00

AFTER losing to the Bulls two weekends ago, the Sharks had to win against fellow title contenders Waratahs at King’s Park this past Saturday.

It was a message Sharks coach Jake White had delivered to his players.

Win they did, and they did it with style, managing a 22-point gap between themselves and the Sydneysiders at the end of the game.

They also did it without their first choice halfback pairing, and with Fred Zeilinga putting in a good shift, White would have slept easier on Saturday, especially with Frans Steyn facing a suspension after being cited for a challenge on Kurtley Beale.

Speaking about the game on Saturday, White said, “After losing last week, one of the things we spoke about was that we had to front up today. We knew that the Waratahs are very abrasive. They’ve got big, strong ball runners. They bashed the Reds, so we knew that we were going to have to front up,” said White.

After other results went in favour of the Sharks on the weekend, White said they let an opportunity slip when they lost to the Bulls.

“We let that one slip. We played badly and they [Bulls] really played well against us.”

White also felt that with the Waratahs missing this season’s top try scorer in Israel Folau, it made things a little easier for his charges.

“There’s no doubt [that he was missed]. He’s a highly rated player and one of the best players in Australia. When you don’t have him, you’ve got to make adjustments.

“It’s no different when [Robbie] Fruean doesn’t play for the Chiefs, or when Pieter-Steph du Toit doesn’t play for the Sharks. There are ways you’ve got to find in which to get the balance right,” he said.

“I think it proves tonight that Israel Folau was probably missing in terms of offering a bit more in their attack.”

What was clear after the game on Saturday was that White does not see eye to eye with Waratahs coach Michael Cheika.

Having been outscored two tries to one by the Sharks, Cheika felt the game was “close” despite the final 32-10 scoreline.

“Whatever Michael Cheika says we believe, don’t we,” White, a former Brumbies coach responded when asked if he felt the game was close, as Cheika had suggested.

White then referenced an incident in which Cheika broke a window in the coaches’ box at the Canberra Stadium after the Waratahs lost to the Brumbies two weeks ago.

“I just want to see if our coaches’ box is still alright because I’ve got to get [John Smit] to get insurance for our coaches’ box. I hope it’s not too damaged,” White said.

Cheika dodged the question when asked about the quality of refereeing this season, but gave an example of a decision that had left him baffled.

“I’ve got to just concentrate on things that I can fix with the team. I was very happy with the defensive effort today, and if I can improve the attacking ruck…

“I’m not sure what’s happening with the scrum penalties. An example is if we have a scrum, we’re pushing the forward and Jannie du Plessis stands up, he resets the scrum. 15 minutes later, they have a scrum Paddy Ryan stands up, he penalises us.

“I agree about the penalty against Paddy Ryan. You don’t stand up in the scrum. But …,” he concluded without finishing his sentence.

The Sharks go into the bye weekend next week holding a six-point lead over the Brumbies at the top of the Super Rugby table and lead the Lions by seven points in the South African Conference. By the time they play the Lions next week, they will still be at the top.

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