Sharks’ win over Lions ticks all Jake’s boxes

2014-02-11 00:00

FRIDAY’S convincing victory over the hapless Lions at Ellis Park was a result that ticked all the boxes for Sharks coach Jake White.

The Sharks, rated as one of the best South African prospects for this year’s Super Rugby title, triumphed in their final warm-up game by an impressive 57-14 scoreline, which left White a happy man.

“What we wanted out of this game was to get stuff right. The things that we worked on, we got right and that gives confidence, which is exactly what you want out of these games,” White said.

Another plus for White and the Sharks was leaving Johannesburg without any injuries, which means — barring any injuries in training during the week — they will be able to begin the campaign with a squad of 35 available players out of 36. The 36th player is JP Pietersen, who is due to return from Japan in March.

“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,” said White.

One of those players who put up his hand was S’bura Sithole, who came on for Paul Jordaan and scored two tries.

“S’bura at 13 was unbelievable. He was phenomenal actually. 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 put up his hand as he did was obviously very pleasing. He’s a case in point of a player taking his chances. He definitely made people sit up and watch.”

White praised the impact the flyhalf-inside centre partnership of Pat Lambie and Frans Steyn had on those around them, adding that they would be a dangerous combination.

“Don’t underestimate having Francois Steyn next to Pat Lambie. The fact is that anything that happens outside them is 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 a combination with those two,” White said.

The forwards are talented, White said, but he felt their season would rely on their backs staying fit and strong.

“We have an attacking backline, and considering we don’t have JP Pietersen back yet. When he does [come back] there is more value there.”

Speaking about Saturday’s Super Rugby opener against the Bulls at King’s Park, White said he didn’t expect Frans Ludeke’s men to come to Sharks country to lie down and hand them the points.

“It’s a derby game, the first 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.”

The Bulls received a blow when it was announced that Arno Botha, Morné Mellett and ex-Maritzburg College flyhalf Jesse Kriel will be sidelined due to injury when they visit Durban, while Bok flanker Deon Stegmann is only expected to start training tomorrow.

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