Jake: These Bulls are not babies

Wed, 12 Feb 2014 14:04
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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.

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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Tue, 06 October 2015
Canada v Romania 15h45 Leicester
Fiji v Uruguay 19h00 Milton Keynes
Wed, 07 October 2015
South Africa v United States 15h45 London
Namibia v Georgia 19h00 Exeter
Fri, 09 October 2015
Pumas v Blue Bulls 16h00 Mbombela Stadium
Western Province v EP Kings 16h00 Newlands
New Zealand v Tonga 19h00 Newcastle
Sat, 10 October 2015
Free State Cheetahs v Sharks 12h00 Bloemfontein
Samoa v Scotland 13h30 Newcastle
Golden Lions v Griquas 14h00 Ellis Park
Australia v Wales 15h45 London
England v Uruguay 19h00 Manchester
Sun, 11 October 2015
Argentina v Namibia 11h00 Leicester
Italy v Romania 13h30 Exeter
France v Ireland 15h45 Cardiff
United States v Japan 19h00 Gloucester
Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Waratahs 16 11 0 5 52
Brumbies 16 9 0 7 47
Rebels 16 7 0 9 36
Reds 16 4 0 12 22
Force 16 3 0 13 19
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Hurricanes 16 14 0 2 66
Highlanders 16 11 0 5 53
Chiefs 16 10 0 6 48
Crusaders 16 9 0 7 46
Blues 16 3 0 13 20
Pool SA
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 16 10 1 5 45
Lions 16 9 1 6 42
Bulls 16 7 0 9 38
Sharks 16 7 0 9 34
Cheetahs 16 5 0 11 26