Is 2014 the year of the Shark?

Tue, 11 Feb 2014 07:08
Large jake white points

Hopes in Durban are high that the Sharks will finally be able to realise their potential and go on to take their first Super Rugby title this year.

Hopes in Durban are high that the Sharks will finally be able to realise their potential and go on to take their first Super Rugby title this year.

The winds of change have swept through the coastal franchise with the arrival of Director of Rugby Jake White in the latter part of 2013.

The former Springbok coach re-affirmed his reputation as a rugby brain when he steered the Brumbies from 13th place in 2012 to the final in last year's competition.

Given the fact that the Brumbies do not possess the same wealth of talent as the Sharks, White may well be able to transform the Durban franchise from habitual runners-up to champions.

The 2007 Rugby World Cup-winning coach has more than a dozen Springboks in his squad to lead their campaign, and has expanded the team's depth over the pre-season with some exciting talent coming through.

"One thing about this group of players is it is a bit of a mindset. We've got some good players and we all know that," White said ahead of their opening Super Rugby match against the Bulls in Durban on Saturday.

"I mean we are spoiled for choice in terms of the Springboks we have, so at least we can be a bit more daring than most teams."

Following a successful 2012 Super Rugby season where they lost out to the Chiefs in the final, the Sharks made a confident start to last year's edition, winning their first three matches on the trot before suffering their first defeat to the Brumbies in Durban.

Inconsistency crept into their campaign and they slowly moved down to a mid-table position, where they remained for eighth place overall having won eight and lost eight of their 16 matches.

Long-time coach John Plumtree left the team in 2013 before the season restart after the June break.

Sharks assistants Grant Bashford and Hugh Reece-Edwards took over the reins for the remainder of the competition before they too departed from the Durban side.

Springbok strongman Bismarck du Plessis has been entrusted with the captain's armband, while White deputised flyhalf Pat Lambie, Jean Deysel and Odwa Ndungane.

After almost nine months on the sidelines, Springbok centre Francois Steyn will be hoping for an injury-free season with White expecting the stalwart to anchor his backline.

"He is a phenomenon that guy. Not many guys have won a World Cup at 19 and not many guys have had two knee injuries and can play like that," White said of the 26-year-old Steyn.

"The thing is, he is so calm and he understands what we want.

"He is very important to the way we want to play."

In a move to settle the side, White has given his assurance that Lambie, who had been fielded at both No.10 and 15 throughout his career, would play flyhalf for the Sharks.

"I rate Patrick Lambie. He gets confidence out of playing at 10. He gets confidence out of co-ordinating the game there and having Francois Steyn next to him," he said.

"There are a lot of positives in his game.

"One of the things I've spoken a lot about is that he is going to play 10 and he gets confidence from the fact that he doesn't have to worry that he is going to be messed around.

"He doesn't have to go and finish off at fullback. Dan Carter doesn't have to go and play at fullback for the Crusaders and Larkham never had to play fullback when he was playing at 10."

With the Super Rugby season stretching over nearly six months, it had become a marathon instead of a sprint with player depth a key component to the successes or failures in the competition.

White said he was excited about the depth he had at the Sharks. It fuelled his confidence and should be able to take them to the top of the premier provincial rugby competition in the world.

"One of the things I learnt with the Brumbies last year when we played against the Chiefs in the final was that when they brought their bench on we couldn't match it. Not to take anything away from the Brumbies, it is just that the Chiefs have been together for so long they had a fantastic bench.

"You will never win the competition with 22 guys.

"It doesn't matter how good you are, you will have to use every single one of these guys and it gives me confidence to know they can come out and play against other teams."

The Sharks will also be buoyed by a favourable draw as they have their first bye in the third round, after two matches. Their second bye comes after a further four matches in South Africa.

They only go on their Australasian tour late in April where they will face the Rebels, Brumbies, Crusaders and Blues.

Returning home, they then take on the Stormers in Cape Town before the rest period during the June international window.


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Fri, 30 September 2016
Golden Lions v Sharks 15h00 Johannesburg
EP Kings v Pumas 16h00 Nelspruit
Western Province v Boland 17h10 Cape Town
Dragons v Glasgow Warriors 18h35 Rodney Parade
Connacht v Edinburgh 18h35 Sportsground
Bristol v Saracens 18h45 Ashton Gate
Northampton Saints v Exeter Chiefs 18h45 Franklin's Gardens
Sat, 01 October 2016
Free State Cheetahs v Griquas 12h00 Bloemfontein
Sale Sharks v Leicester Tigers 13h30 AJ Bell Stadium
Gloucester v Bath 14h00 Kingsholm
South Africa v Australia 15h05 Loftus Versfeld
Munster v Zebre 16h00 Thomond Park
Ulster v Ospreys 17h30 Kingspan Stadium
Cardiff Blues v Leinster 18h35 BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park
Cardiff Blues v Cardiff Blues 19h05 Stadio Monigo
Sun, 02 October 2016
Argentina v New Zealand 22h10 Ascoli Piceno
Wasps v Harlequins 13h30 Ricoh Arena
Worcester Warriors v Newcastle Falcons 14h00 Sixways
Tue, 04 October 2016
Edinburgh v Ulster 19h35 BT Murrayfield
Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Brumbies 15 10 0 5 43
Waratahs 15 8 0 7 40
Rebels 15 7 0 8 31
Reds 15 3 1 11 17
Force 15 2 0 13 13
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Hurricanes 15 11 0 4 53
Highlanders 15 11 0 4 52
Chiefs 15 11 0 4 51
Crusaders 15 11 0 4 50
Blues 15 8 1 6 39
Pool SA1
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 15 10 1 4 51
Bulls 15 9 1 5 42
Cheetahs 15 4 0 11 21
Sunwolves 15 1 1 13 9
Pool SA2
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 14 11 0 3 52
Sharks 15 9 1 5 43
Jaguares 14 3 0 11 18
Kings 15 2 0 13 9