Jake White baits Sharks ahead of Currie Cup final
CAPE TOWN - Run at us if you dare, Sharks. That was the challenge laid down by Blue Bulls coach Jake White to the Durban side ahead of Saturday’s Currie Cup final at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
The Bulls have done almost everything possible in this almost never-ending South African rugby season, but now the holy grail of the Currie Cup trophy remains.
They’ve won the Super Rugby Unlocked title, topped the Currie
Cup round-robin log, and knocked over the Lions 26-21 in Saturday’s semi-final.
They won the most matches since the Unlocked competition started, scored the most points and have the
best points difference, score the most tries (35).
But all of that will count for little if they don’t beat the Sharks in what will be the first Currie Cup final in Pretoria since 2009 – which is also the last time the Bulls won the golden trophy.
Now coach White has baited the Sharks to try to emulate the Lions’ game plan in a bid to unlock the KwaZulu-Natal team’s defence.
Sharks coach Sean Everitt’s team have tended to stick to the territory game in the Currie Cup, which has been somewhat of a surprise, considering the returns they got from an all-out attacking style in the first Super Rugby tournament of 2020, when they topped the log before the season was halted due to Covid-19.
It was another ‘kick-a-thon’ at Newlands in Cape Town at the weekend, when Sharks flyhalf Curwin Bosch’s boot proved decisive in the 19-9 semi-final win over Western Province.
“There is rain forecast for (the final), but it’s (at) altitude. The reality is that the coastal teams (meaning the Sharks and WP) have to come here,” the cagey White explained.
“And if they’ve seen how the Lions played, and they play like that, then it’s good for us – as neither of them have played like that the whole year,” he added.
“I’m hoping that (the Sharks) come here and try and run from side to side, because altitude and the conflict of the styles obviously creates opportunities for us.
“We defended well against a side who tried to go from side to side. I’m expecting them to be a little bit more direct – maybe to kick a lot more.
“We’ve beaten both of those sides (Sharks and WP) twice this year, and that’s a great place to be to control your destiny in your own stadium.
“I just want us to enjoy the week. We haven’t played in a final for a long time, and the last time, we lost (in 2016 against the Cheetahs).
“I’ve got to find some ways to get the energy up. I want them to finish what they started by winning the final.”
The Bulls mentor was hopeful that outside centre Stedman Gans, who was a late withdrawal for the semi-final with a hamstring niggle, would be fit for the final.
But White said Gans’ replacement, Marco Jansen van Vuren, was “outstanding” against the Lions, having had just a day and a half to prepare to play at No 13, having operated at scrumhalf and wing this season.