Sydney - Jake White has emphasised that Saturday’s match between the Sharks and Brumbies should not be about him and his return to where he coached last year, but rather the importance of what is shaping up to be an epic top-of-the-table tussle.
The clash in Canberra will see White’s log-leading Sharks come up against the team he coached to last year’s Super Rugby final, and while the Australian media are already working themselves into a frenzy over his “homecoming”, he said this couldn’t be allowed to become a distraction.
“This is not about me. It’s about this game, that’s the most important thing, we don’t want any other sideshows. It makes no difference who is coaching.
“At the end of the day, this is the type of game you want to be involved in, you want to be top of the log, playing against a team that’s second on the log. It’s what you play rugby for.”
After a two-year stint at the Brumbies, the common assumption is that White will have inside knowledge concerning the Canberra camp, but while the Sharks coach admitted this was true to a degree, he suggested it also worked both ways.
“It does (provide an advantage) because I know the players better than most, after working with them for a long time. I developed a few who were youngsters when I started, I know what makes them tick, and I know the weaknesses they had when they were developing their game.
“Obviously, they would have worked on those weaknesses and got better, but I do know them well.
“The converse of all that, though, is that I also gave them great insights into the South African psyche, and our players,” he said.
Last year, White would have played no small part in masterminding the Brumbies’ emphatic 29-10 win over the Sharks at King’s Park, and the Durbanites would love nothing more than to return the favour on Saturday.
“Don’t forget, when the Brumbies came to Durban, they scored four tries before half-time, and that was when the Sharks were on a three-match winning streak.
“So the guys (the Sharks) know they have to be up for this game because they let themselves down last year. It is an easier week to motivate because of that.”
It goes without saying that the Brumbies will be similarly fired up for this encounter, and White acknowledged that they remained an extremely dangerous side.
“The Brumbies are a quality outfit, and they have a number of players that will go on to play for Australia. They’ve developed as a team after a few years together, and continuity is always a major benefit in that regard.”
On the injury front for the Sharks, there is some concern over the hamstring that continues to hamper the progress of Paul Jordaan, while flyhalf Fred Zeilinga pulled up with a similar injury at training on Monday.
The good news is S’bura Sithole looks set to return after overcoming a hamstring problem.