Sharks have great depth, says White

2014-01-30 00:00

THE Sharks showed in their weekend friendly against Saracens in London that they have the necessary depth to cope with the challenges in Super Rugby, coach Jake White said yesterday.

The Sharks were beaten 23-15 by the English Premiership leaders, but shared the try count at two apiece. They also played much better in the second half, outscoring Saracens 12-3.

White said the friendly provided more answers than questions.

“What really impressed me was the depth of the squad and the performances of the guys who came off the bench.”

He said he was delighted that a number of young players who had been working with the squad since October had seen action.

“I’d say that was the biggest positive I got out of the game, that these players will take confidence from that fact that they can play against a good team and do well.

“We scored two tries as well, which helps confidence because not many sides have scored two tries against Saracens.”

White said that he knew the Sharks would battle in their first game against quality opposition.

“It was never going to be easy. I said to the players afterwards in the change room they’d be naïve to think we were going to beat a team that’s top of the Premiership and consistently been in the top three for the last few years. Saracens have just qualified for the Heineken Cup quarter-finals and they have an unbelievable squad, even though they had a few players out with the England squad.”

He said that the Sharks had also struggled because their many Springboks were returning from a month’s holiday.

“I know where we are and the players take confidence from the things we did. The bonus is that they know they need to work hard. It’s not just going to happen. This game showed we still have to put in the hard yards.”

The Sharks head coach said that the young centre André Esterhuizen had shown that he has a bright future and a lengthy career ahead of him.

“He’s still U20 and it is a daunting task to play in that weather and those conditions. He played well, but he wasn’t the only one tossed in the deep end. We had a new 10 [Tim Swiel] and a new fullback [Tyler Fisher]. I was pleased with all the young guys who came on.”

White said that having a strong bench was crucial to success in the extended Super Rugby competition.

“I saw that first-hand last year [when he took the Brumbies to the final against the Chiefs].

“When the Chiefs brought on their bench in the final, it made a significant difference.”

He said that the Sharks had “great depth” on the bench and he wanted the players to understand how important their role would be.

“They are as important to the way a game will unfold as the players are who start.

“Some of the youngsters here aren’t household names, but they can come on and make a difference. Things are positive in that light.”

Wing Lwazi Mvovo was stretchered off in the second half of the Saracens game, but this was precautionary and he has recovered from the slight concussion.

White said the players had not picked up more than the usual bumps and bruises.

“We are looking good going into our next game against the Lions.”

The friendly — at Ellis Park on February 7 — is the Sharks’ final warm-up game before they open their Super Rugby season against the Bulls in Durban on February 15.

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