Super crunch game

2014-05-10 00:00

THE Sharks and the Brumbies face off in the most highly anticipated Super Rugby clash of the season today, with the “Jake White factor” adding more spice to a game that could have been just as gigantic even without the former Springbok coach.

It is a match that pits number one against number three on the log standings.

With six games to go, the match represents the biggest one for the South Africans and their director of rugby White, who is returning to the franchise he left midway through a four-year contract last year.

His decision took many in Australia by surprise with some even predicting a hostile reception for the 51-year-old, despite his successful spell in Canberra, which ended with a run to the Super Rugby final they eventually lost to the Chiefs.

“If there is hostility, that’s because I’m sure people would be a little disappointed that I didn’t stay, and that’s not a bad thing,” White said ahead of the clash. “Not many coaches in the world get hostility shown at them by the fact that they left.

“Coaches, it’s a tough gig and most times you leave when you don’t want to, and when you do leave when it suits you, it’s not wrong. Sometimes it’s better.’’

White or no White, the match was always going to be a true test of the Durban side’s championship credentials.

So far they have won eight out of their 10 games to soar to the top. Six of those wins have come at home with the two away victories against teams they would have expected to beat — the Lions and Rebels.

With the regular season now headed towards the final straight, it is results in matches such as these that could prove significant in determining where the final will be held, a major factor in deciding the title.

White has rightfully played down his return, saying, “This is not about me. It’s about this game, that’s the most important thing, we don’t want any other sideshows.

“It makes no difference who is coaching. At the end of the day, this is the type of game you want to be involved in, you want to be top of the log, playing against a team who’s second on the log. It’s what you play rugby for.” (The Brumbies have since dropped to third place).

He admitted to knowing the Brumbies players, many of whom he introduced to Super Rugby, “better than most”, but also felt there was a counter argument for opposite number Stephen Larkham and his squad understanding their former coach in a similar way.

In terms of White’s own players, the 2007 World Cup-winning coach has brought back scrumhalf Cobus Reinach into his starting XV after seven week’s out due to a broken hand.

The move is one of three changes and is set to offer the Sharks more zip around the fringes, although they have lost one of the contenders for player of the season in Marcell Coetzee, who has returned home with a shoulder injury.

Former captain Keegan Daniel takes over from the Bok flanker; S’bura Sithole is back to give the midfield more pace.

The Brumbies, meanwhile, have named Fotu Auelua in their starting line-up for the first time this season after he returned from a lengthy injury lay-off.

The big Samoan comes in for Jordan Smiler at flank.

The Sharks have only twice won in Canberra, on their last visit in 2012 and way back in 1998.


Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (captain), 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Fotu Auelua, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.

Substitutes: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Ruaidhri Murphy, 19 Jordan Smiler, 20 Tom McVerry, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Andrew Smith, 23 Pat McCabe

Sharks: 15. Lwazi Mvovo, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. S’bura Sithole, 12. Paul Jordaan, 11. JP Pietersen, 10. Frans Steyn, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Keegan Daniel, 5. Stephan Lewies, 4. Willem Alberts, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1. Tendai Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Dale Chadwick, 18. Lourens Adriaanse, 19. Etienne Oosthuizen, 20. Tera Mtembu, 21. Charl McLeod, 22. Heimar Williams, 23. SP Marais


Highlanders v Lions - 9.35 am. Brumbies v Sharks - 11.40 am. Cheetahs v Western Force - 5.05 pm. Bulls v Stormers - 7.10 pm

Tomorrow: Reds v Crusaders - 8.05 am.

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