Well, Jake White is certainly making a point right now, isn’t he? Not wanted in South Africa after guiding the Springboks to World Cup glory in 2007, White was in the wilderness before taking up the job as Brumbies coach last year.
And in the space of a year-and-a-half, he’s turned the former champions into a team that will seriously challenge for the title this year.
The Brumbies were on the up last season just to be pipped by the Reds for the Australian Conference but with four wins in four matches this season and out front by six points it’s clear the early leaders are the team to watch – and beat.
They were expected to give the Sharks a good run for their money in Durban – both teams went into the game unbeaten so far this year – but not too many actually expected them to win, let alone do so in the manner they did.
White worked them out brilliantly – but then he’s always been a master tactician – and his players delivered a stunning performance.
They were efficient and clinical and had the bonus point in the bag before half-time – game over. And even though the Sharks staged something of a late fightback, for a side who battle to score tries this season, that kind of lead by the Brumbies was always going to be tough to overhaul. The Sharks were dominated in most areas and never allowed to get into the game. The performance will have made coach John Plumtree a tad worried ahead of the visit this week to Durban of the Rebels.
The Sharks should always beat the men from Melbourne, but confidence will not be too high this week so we could be in for another interesting game. As for the Brumbies, well, they’re up against the Stormers this coming week, the Cape side coming off a bye and not nearly in the form to suggest they’ll be favourites on Saturday. White could very easily leave his homeland next Sunday with two major SA scalps in the bag.
It wasn’t only the Brumbies who caused something of an upset this weekend, but, as suggested a week ago, there were plenty more surprise results in Super Rugby at the weekend. And for South Africa it was something of a black weekend, just a week on from what many called a stunner for this country after four local teams won and the Kings put up a spirited display.
Not only did the Sharks get a hiding, but the Bulls and Kings lost, with only the Cheetahs picking up a win and what a win it was.
Naka Drotske’s men produced a wonderful display against the Highlanders last weekend and they followed that up with a second straight win on tour when they beat the Waratahs. It was a close affair, but they won and will now really believe they can make it three wins on tour when they come up against the Western Force this weekend. They’ll be up against their former team-mate, Sias Ebersohn, who helped the Force to a surprise win over the Reds on Saturday.
The Crusaders, desperate to win for the first time this year, turned back the clock and produced a vintage performance against the Bulls in Christchurch, scoring several quality tries and inflicting a first defeat on the Bulls.
Frans Ludeke’s men were outplayed in most areas and there will be some concern that the three-time champions aren’t able to put together back-to-back performances of equal quality.
On Friday in Port Elizabeth, the Kings again showed they belong at this level – if only for the time being – when they made the Chiefs fight extremely hard for their bonus point win. The Kings were far from embarrassed – as some thought they’d be – but their biggest test will come now on tour in Australasia, starting this weekend against the Crusaders.
Sharks 10 Brumbies 29; Reds 12 Force 19; Crusaders 41 Bulls 19; Kings 24 Chiefs 35; Waratahs 26 Cheetahs 27; Highlanders 19 Hurricanes 23
Friday: Chiefs v Highlanders
Saturday: Crusaders v Kings; Reds v Bulls; Force v Cheetahs; Sharks v Rebels; Stormers v Brumbies
Sunday: Waratahs v Blues - The Star