Durban – Sharks director of rugby Jake White believes their week-early start to the Super Rugby season will give them an advantage when they come up against the Hurricanes at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.
The South African conference kicked off the competition seven days earlier than those from New Zealand and Australia with the coastal franchise starting out with a bang, courtesy of their 31-16 bonus-point win over the Bulls last weekend.
White, whose side are one of the favourites for the 2014 title, believed there will be several factors working in their favour against the Wellington-based visitors, one of the biggest being the humidity levels in the city during February.
“It's the first game for them, away from home and I'm sure they'll have pressure that comes with playing your first fixture as well,” he said ahead of the game.
“It will be nice fixture, nice for us because we've got a bonus point and we go into this game with a bit of confidence which is always good.
“They're a different kind of team and the challenge is whether they can do it in week one, can they do it in Durban, in a 5pm kick-off when it's so humid? Those are the things they have to worry about.
“But, in saying that, we aren't going to react to what they want to do, we are just focusing on the things we want to get right. After the Bulls run, we know there are things we have to improve on. That's nice going forward because we can start focusing on those areas.”
Some of those areas spoken about this week are the scrums and also the penalty count against them.
White said preparations had been different for the Hurricanes, a side that has a seven-seven (win-loss) record against the Sharks with one draw.
“This weekend is a different challenge, we're playing a New Zealand side and they play completely different rugby, more backline focused than forwards,” he said.
“You have to do your homework on the opposition and focus on what you do well, as well. We know what works for us as a group and we'll have to try and make sure we play the way we want to.
“At the same time we have to look at the challenges they pose with the backline they have and the ability they have to carve people to pieces from their own half, so it's going to be different from the Bulls.”
White, who named an unchanged team for the clash, was wary of the X-factor players in the Hurricanes' line-up.
“They have great backs. Beauden Barritt, Conrad Smith and Julian Savea, and then this Marty Banks who is being spoken about as one of the best players to have come out of the second tier division and he's come directly into Super Rugby,” he said.
“He's kept a guy like Andre Taylor out who's been a fullback sensation for the last couple of seasons, so he's obviously playing well. We'll have to be on our guard.” – Sapa