We have the upper hand, says White ahead of Bulls clash

2014-02-13 00:00

THE ball is firmly with the Sharks ahead of their Super Rugby opener against the Bulls at King’s Park on Saturday evening.

“We know the art of war,” was essentially coach Jake White’s message, having seen the side selected by Bulls coach Frans Ludeke for the encounter.

Following a player exodus at the Bulls that left them depleted for this year’s Super Rugby season, Ludeke picked a side that shouldn’t pose too much of a threat to Jake White’s Sharks.

White, who has a plethora of talent available to him, was in a bullish mood yesterday, but he was cautious not to ride on the “favourites” tag that has been placed on the Sharks too much, reiterating again that “reputations mean nothing”.

The main thing for White was winning local derbies.

“If you want to win this competition, you have to win your local derbies. You’ve got to win away from home as well. If you dominate your conference, it’s highly likely you’re going to be in the top four, and that means you have got to be the best side in your country.

“We’re under no illusions. The expectation is we’re going to be the form team with this great side. But as I’ve said, reputations count for nothing once you get on the field,” said White.

On paper, the Sharks, with their experienced squad with talent all over the park and on the bench, should easily win the game against the Bulls who lost the likes of Morné Steyn, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Juandre Kruger, Dewald Potgieter, Jano Vermaak, Wynand Olivier and Zane Kirchner last year. But, despite losing those players, White knows what the Bulls are about, and regardless of who is on the field, they will be a tough side to play against.

“We know exactly what the Bulls have been doing. They’ve been doing it for years. They’re going to kick from the base of the scrum. They’re going to kick from the base of the lineout. They’re going to maul every single lineout they get and they’re going to try and physically dominate you in the first 25 minutes to see if they can get some [assertiveness].

“That’s not going to change. I can’t believe they’re going to move away from the things that have worked for them,” White said.

Having already seen the side picked by Ludeke, White felt it was a reaction to the team the Bulls thought the Sharks were going to put out, which had given them the upper hand.

“Sun Tzu wrote a book called The Art of War. He said if the enemy reacts to you, then you’re in a position of strength and if you react to the enemy, you’re in a position of weakness. If the Bulls are reacting to what they think we’ve got, then first play is ours,” White said yesterday.

White will announce his starting XV for their Super Rugby opener today.

• lunga.biyela@witness.co.za

Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 J J Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Flip vd Merwe, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling

Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Victor Matfield, 19 Jacques Engelbrecht, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Handré Pollard, 22 Ulrich Beyers, 23 Marcel vd Merwe.

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