Sydney – While there is gratitude in Canberra about the role Jake White played in the ACT Brumbies revival, he is a just sideshow to this weekend’s top-of-the-table Super Rugby clash against the Sharks, hooker Stephen Moore said on Wednesday.
White turned the Brumbies from the third-worst team in the competition in 2011 to runners-up last year before departing halfway through his contract and returning to South Africa to take over as coach of the Sharks.
Under his guidance, the Durban-based outfit have set the pace in Super Rugby this season and lead the standings five points clear of the Brumbies going into Saturday’s clash at Canberra Stadium.
But to focus simply on the former World Cup-winning Springboks coach would be to miss the point about the importance of the game, Moore said, especially after the Brumbies were hammered 40-20 by the Canterbury Crusaders last weekend.
“I think there’s been a lot said about Jake and him leaving but I think that’s peripheral to what’s important this weekend,” the 91-cap international said at the launch of the new Wallabies shirt on Wednesday.
“We’re playing the top team in the comp, we’ve had a decent start to the season. It’s an important game for us, we need to bounce back after last week’s loss and play really well at home.”
Moore said White’s familiarity with the Brumbies would not be a massive factor given the frequency with which Super Rugby sides meet in the competition and he certainly thinks he knows what to expect from the Sharks.
“It will be a tough game, the Sharks have played really well all year and it’s probably no coincidence that Jake’s coaching them,” Moore said.
“He's a very good coach, his record shows that. So we’re expecting him to bring a really tough side. He knows a fair bit about us and we know a fair bit about them.
“They’ll play a forward dominated game, they’ll play field position, they’ve got big forwards who get them over the gain-line and obviously (Frans) Steyn’s boot will come into play there if our discipline drops away.”
Flyhalf Matt Toomua, who announced a new three-year deal to stay in Canberra on Wednesday, expects a contest of “close to test intensity” but said the Brumbies team that runs out on Saturday had evolved under new head coach Stephen Larkham.
“It’s not something what we’ve forced, I think we’ve got a few guys, including myself, Christian Lealiifano and (scrumhalf) Nic White, who have a licence to try things a bit more,” he said, after modelling the new Asics shirt for photographers.
“We were very wary of not trying to revolutionise our game and forget what we were good at. We were good at quite a few things last year that got us to the final.
“We’re trying to adapt a few things. But it takes time, so we can’t push the envelope too hard, we’ve still got to win games.”
Like Toomua, inside centre Lealiifano’s career blossomed under White.
While the identity of the coach in the opposition dressing room would make little difference to his approach to the match, the 26-year-old was happy to give credit where credit was due.
“He was a massive part of my career, he turned my career round at a really important point,” said Lealiifano, who made his test debut against the British and Irish Lions last year.
“He told me hard truths and gave me some challenges, and definitely made me the player I am today.” – Reuters