Can Sharks stay ahead of the pack?
Tue, 08 Apr 2014 10:24
Now the hard yards start
The Sharks have had it all their way so far, with a string of home games and byes coming at the right times, but it's now up to them to make it count.
Jake White's team has enjoyed early success this season winning five from six games and sitting atop the table with a game in hand over half the competition.
Despite not playing on the weekend, a combination of other results as well as the log points they’ve picked up meant they stayed top of the standings.
But the World Cup-winning coach knows that sitting pretty on the log for the majority of the season will mean nothing if they are not the ones to lift the trophy.
Things get tougher for the Sharks after this bye, they face a faltering Lions team at Ellis Park that will be hungry for a win after going down 7-28 to the Crusaders.
The Sharks' only loss so far was against the Bulls in Round Six, as well as being the Durban team's only away game so far.
It has become a bit of a trait of White's teams in the past to be undefeatable at home but to show cracks when on the road, one needs only look back to the 2004 Tri-Nations as well as the Brumbies season last year.
But having had the break White believes his charges are feeling physically and mentally fresh.
“The most important aspect is the mental break the bye gave us," White said.
"This tournament takes its toll and more so what’s coming. We have eight weeks before our next break.
"Mentally, it was a good break for us and we all knew that mentally we had to take some time out because we’re going to be under pressure in the next two months.”
White is clearly pleased with his start but knows they will have to keep up the intensity for a long period of time if they are to stay ahead of the chasing pack.
"Now the hard yards start, we have eight weeks in a row," he said.
"We saw the Stormers coming back from tour losing to the Waratahs. We have to come back and play the Stormers in our last weekend [before the June break] after touring. And we know they’re a good side.”
With a game in hand they now have the opportunity over the next two months – a testing period indeed – to really take control on the log if they get the results they desire.
“We were in a great position going into the bye week, even though we weren’t playing, we would still manage to remain on top of the log.
"But I’ve said it a number of times, it’s not where you are on the log during the season but where you end up at the conclusion of the season.
“Our destiny is in our hands, we have eight weeks ahead of us and in those eight weeks we can really stake a claim for the title. That’s why it was good to get away and refocus on what’s coming,” White concluded.
There is good news on the injury front as Paul Jordaan comes back into the reckoning for this weekend’s match against the Lions, although White may not be too willing to tamper with the winning combination that dismantled the Waratahs fairly comprehensively in the last match before the bye.
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