Sharks to stick to their game

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iol spt july25 Sharks-Deysel-Highlanders Gallo Images The Sharks won't abandon their game plan when they face the Canterbury Crusaders in their Super Rugby semi-final. Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images

Wellington – The ACT Brumbies have abandoned his conservative game plan but Jake White's Sharks' side won't when they face the Canterbury Crusaders in their Super Rugby semi-final on Saturday.

The 2007 World Cup-winning coach left the Brumbies last year after guiding them to the Super Rugby final and the Canberra-based side initially adopted White's conservative territory-first game plan only to throw it out last week at the start of the playoffs.

Current Brumbies coach Laurie Fisher told reporters in Sydney in Friday his side would not abandon the running rugby that had taken them past the Waikato Chiefs to the semi-final against the table-topping New South Wales Waratahs.

White, however, whose sides are built around a combative forward pack and a game plan that minimises errors, and attacking initiative, inside their own territory would not be following suit against the Crusaders in Christchurch.

The third-seeded Sharks highlighted how ruthless their pack, led by the seemingly indestructible Bismarck du Plessis, can be when they bludgeoned the Otago Highlanders' into the King's Park turf in the first round of the playoffs last week.

“You've got to play to the strengths you have,” White told reporters in Christchurch this week about the game plan likely to be seen by his side.

“We've got a great scrum we've got a good set piece and we've obviously got some backs that we can finish when we turn some ball over so it'll be the same that has been working for us.

“In knockout rugby you have to go back to what works for you and we have done those things consistently.”

White said he saw similarities in the Sharks and Crusaders, with both packs laden with internationals and expected to try to belt each other into submission.

The New Zealand side's consistency - they have made at least the semi-finals in 16 of the 18 years of the competition - was also evidence of their own conservative approach to the game, he added.

“I'm preaching to the converted here but the Crusaders are the most conservative team in New Zealand,” he said.

“But they're consistently the best out of all five franchises. You have to play to your strengths.”

The Crusaders have lost their last two matches to the Sharks, 21-17 last year in Durban and again in May when the South Africans recorded their first win in Christchurch with a 30-25 victory despite playing more than 60 minutes with only 14 men, giving the Sharks immense confidence, White added.

“We beat them last year in Durban and we beat them this year,” said White.

“So the reality of this group of players is that we have won both home and away against the same group of players.”

While confident with his side's game plan and ability to negate the travel from South Africa, White said he was unhappy with the current format, believing the travel for the playoffs and regular season draw could unfairly favour teams.

The current regular season draw ensures that some teams may miss games against tougher opposition, giving them the possibility of an 'easy' four or five competition points against the other teams.

“Sanzar is going to have to have a long look about whether or not we should have quarter-finals and playoffs because we are wasting a lot of time, a lot of money,” he said in adding he preferred a simple round-robin competition with the champion decided at the end of that.

“Smaller competition everyone plays. Player welfare comes first, national teams come first but that's never going to happen when you're trying to sell 169 rugby games on TV.” – Reuters


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