at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
No doubt the Sharks will find themselves in “finishing school” when they get back from a well-deserved break on Thursday but in most respects they have hit their bye week with a feeling of “mission accomplished”.
The Sharks are top of the overall log, having harvested nine points from a possible 10 from their matches against the Bulls and Hurricanes and have a bye this week before hosting South Africa’s other unbeaten team, the mystifying Lions, on Saturday, March 8.
The Sharks were outstanding up front against the Hurricanes but for all their dominance, scored just two tries, none of them an intercept, and coach Jake White will want his team to be more clinical in their finishing as the competition wears on.
“The lesson that the players will take out of this game is that we have to work hard on converting pressure into points,” White said. “Often we seemed to be doing everything except get the ball over the line.
“Still, there were lots of positives to take out of the game. Our set-piece was excellent. The opportunities you expect to get from a good set-piece were created and we were good defensively. The week before we played a forward dominated side (in the Bulls), who bashed away at our defensive line and got a try, this game we played a team with a great attack and to keep them try-less is fantastic.”
White is content that his team have hit target by going into the bye on top of the log, and the reward for the players is a four-day holiday, something they will cherish after a tough pre-season schedule that had them at the Stadium training every day in hectic heat.
“Obviously we wanted to make sure we win the first two games,” White said. “I thought we looked tired against the Hurricanes at times, that’s because we’ve worked really hard in the last three or four months. The players are now off until Wednesday, and I’ve told them I don’t want them to think about rugby, to spend time with their families. Then we will get back on Thursday, work hard, get some nice conditioning done and top up the tank, and then start preparing Saturday, Sunday for the Lions, which is going to be a massive derby.”
The manner in which the Sharks annihilated the Hurricanes at scrum time is seldom seen in rugby these days because over-officiating by referees often negates the advantage a superior pack might have, and White naturally wants his superb pack to have a chance to out-scrum the opposition.
“You don’t want to take away the scrum as a weapon in rugby,” he said. “With a front row and pack of forwards like ours, it’s very important to get the opportunity to use our strength. The law is quite simple. We’re not asking anyone to make the scrum contest equal, just fair. Sometimes it’s turned into an equal contest and that’s unfair because it takes away the dominance you might have as a front row.”
White will enjoy the break this week in the knowledge that not only has he got nine points in the bank, but his squad have emerged injury-free from two bruising battles.
He fielded an unchanged team against the Bulls and has the luxury of going the same route against the Lions next week. - The Star