They scored nine tries, were hardly tested in defence and won just about every facet of the game. Was it a worthwhile exercise then for the Sharks to travel all the way to Joburg and take on a Lions side minus their first-choice players? A scoreline of 57-14 suggests not, but the director of rugby in Durban, Jake White, says otherwise.
White insists he got everything he wanted from the outing at Ellis Park and feels all the boxes have been ticked ahead of the start of Super Rugby this weekend.
“We tried a few things out there and all the players got a run. Also, some individuals really performed well and as a group, as a collective, I thought we did what we’d set out to do. We played well and ticked the boxes,” said White, who will be in charge of a South African Super Rugby team for the first time in his long career this season.
White said he hoped the Sharks’ more expansive approach to the game this year would give the opposition something different to think about. The Sharks have battled in recent years to score four tries in their games, missing out on picking up bonus points.
“If you’re going to do well in Super Rugby you need to score four tries. We’ve got good players here, we’re blessed to have a lot of Springboks and hopefully this year we can be a little more daring in our approach.
“We want to play exciting rugby and make it hard for the opposition to be able to analyse us.”
He added the quality of depth at the franchise was hugely pleasing and would be crucial if his team were to make a serious run for the title.
“What I learnt at the Brumbies last year when we played the Chiefs in the final was that depth is so important. The Chiefs had an unbelievable bench and when those guys came on the game changed. You’re never going to win this competition with 22 guys… you’re going to have to use every one of your squad members.
“It gives me great confidence knowing I have the depth; that everyone can play at this level. To think one can finish off a game with Ryan Kankowski, who will support the slightly younger guys when they come on, is massive.”
One of the highlights for the Sharks last Friday, against the Lions, was the performance of Sibusiso Sithole, who scored two tries playing at outside centre, rather than on the wing. “He’s just got it,” said White. “I think he can be a Bok in future; he’s big and strong, carries well and defends strongly. I deliberately played him at 13 and I am very happy with his showing. It’s a position where I feel there’s a shortage in South Africa.”
The other outstanding player on Friday was flyhalf Pat Lambie. White feels the No 10 will grow even more as a player in the months ahead. “I rate him. He gets so much confidence playing at 10 and not being shifted around. The best flyhalves in the game, men like Dan Carter and Stephen Larkham, never finished matches at fullback; they played flyhalf. Pat knows I back him there and that’s where he’ll play. It’s just fair to not mess him around.” - The Star