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Jake: These Bulls are not babies

Wed, 12 Feb 2014 14:04
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Anthony knows all their plays
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Sharks Director of Rugby Jake White has again moved to play down expectations ahead of his team's first Super Rugby match.

The Sharks host the Bulls in the opening round in Durban on Saturday, with most pundits expecting an 'easy' win for the men from Durban.

Having lost more than 20 senior players in 2013 - including players like Springboks Chiliboy Ralepelle, Juandré Kruger, Dewald Potgieter, Jacques Potgieter, Jano Vermaak, Wynand Olivier, Lionel Mapoe, Zane Kirchner and perhaps the biggest loss of all Morné Steyn - the Bulls have been written off as a serious threat to the star-studded Sharks outfit.

However, White was quick to point to the perils of underestimating the opposition, especially a team with the traditions and success that come with the Bulls.

"People wrote the Bulls off last year - when Victor Matfield, Danie Rossouw, Fourie du Preez and Bakkies Botha had all left - and many thought it was the end of an era and their dominance in South Africa," White said in an interview on the Sharks website.

"Yet they finished top of the South African conference and made the semifinals. Who would have thought that?

"So it would be very wrong for us to think this is going to be a one-sided affair," the shrewd World Cup-winning former Bok coach said.

He also pointed out that despite the big names in his team, they will be challenged throughout the 2014 campaign.

White used the Cheetahs as another example of a team that was written off before the season, but finished in the top six last year - ahead of the Sharks.

"Last year no-one gave the Cheetahs a chance and they ended up making the play-offs as well," the Sharks mentor said.

"There is no doubt that South African rugby is strong. I've always said that.

"That is why we're taking nothing for granted against the Bulls this week and will take that attitude right through to the end of the tournament."

Playing the Bulls in their first game is a great way to start the tournament, but importantly, getting off to a winning start sets the tone early on.

"It is crucial to start well," White said.

"It is also a home game. People have always spoken about the fact that you have to win your home games to give yourself a chance."

The arrival of former Bulls age-group coach Paul Anthony as an assistant coach at the Sharks will be an interesting sideshow at Kings Park.

"He [Anthony] knows all their plays, he knows all their calls," White said, adding: "It will be interesting to see if the Bulls are one step ahead and have changed things.

"That's the world of professional sport - you bring in a guy like Paul who has coached all their juniors and they have this model where everyone plays the same way, even the line-out calls or set moves.

"They have these as a common theme through the franchise at all levels. It will be interesting to see, with Paul's input, whether the Bulls will be aware of that."

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