Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Durban - Cell C Sharks director of rugby Jake White reckons his team has hit the target that was set them for the first segment of the season, the supersport.com website reports.
The Sharks beat the Hurricanes 27-9 at Kings Park this past weekend to ensure they go into their first bye week with two wins under the belt. And after picking up a four try bonus point against the Bulls in week one, his men have only one point less than a full house and are soaring on the early log standings.
They may well have picked up another four try bonus against the Hurricanes had it not been for the discordant play that prevented them from taking full advantage of their early dominance of the set-pieces. But White has stated that in his view a bonus is just that, a bonus, and was happy with the win.
“It was one of those things. Against the Bulls we were really clinical and finished off from almost every opportunity, while in this game we struggled to put it together and you could probably say we left points on the table,” said White.
“But it is early in the season and sometimes that happens. Few teams just hit their straps straight away. What I am happy about is that we have done what we set out to do by winning our opening two home games.”
White said he had been particularly pleased with his team’s performance in the set-pieces, particularly the scrums, and that the objective of sapping the Hurricanes’ energy had been achieved. The Hurricanes boast a star-studded backline and White was wary of what they might be able to do had they won enough ball and been able to play with energy.
“These early games against overseas teams are difficult as, unlike when you play the Bulls or other South African teams that you know well, you don’t really know what to expect. For instance we heard a lot of Marty Banks, their new fullback who was so excellent in the New Zealand domestic tournament last year. All the reviews were about his running game, yet in this match it was mainly his kicking that was to the fore.”
The Sharks were beaten in the field kicking game, and while flyhalf Patrick Lambie contributed 17 points with his boot, it was not a match that he will remember as fondly as the previous one against the Bulls in terms of his tactical kicking and decision making. The same can be said for scrumhalf Cobus Reinach, who at times was poor with his option taking.
Hurricanes coach Marc Hammett agreed afterwards that it was probably a closer game than the final score suggested.
“When was the intercept try scored against us? With 16 minutes to go? We felt we were right in the game until then and we felt our plans were working,” said Hammett.
The Hurricanes coach said he had expected the Sharks to kick a lot and his team had been prepared for it.
“When Jake was coach at the Brumbies they kicked a lot so we know what type of game he likes to play,” he said.
White, having driven them hard in the pre-season, has given his players most of this week off and said the bye had come at the perfect time.
“I noticed a lot of dead legs out there late in the game. The players have worked hard and they need a rest,” said White.
“Now that we have put in all the ground work, and have seen some of the hard work start paying off, we can ease off a bit. Up to now I haven’t given the players much time off, but I can start doing that now. I prefer to create a situation where days off can be added in rather than the other way around. In other words, I don’t want to add in work when they are expecting to be off.”
White said he was hopeful that JP Pietersen will be back in Durban to boost his options at the back in the next couple of weeks.
“It depends on how far his Japanese club progresses in their competition. They play a match next weekend and of course we will be hoping they lose so that he can be available to play for us in the next game,” he grinned.
There were no injuries in the Hurricanes game and White expects to have a full squad to choose from for the next game against the Lions in Durban in two weeks. After their impressive win over the Stormers, the derby between the two old rivals is shaping up as an important one for the purpose of determining early ascendancy in the South African conference.