Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Durban - Cell C Sharks coach Jake White has confirmed that he left London after his team’s friendly match against Saracens last weekend feeling that most of the questions that he was asking had been answered, reports the supersport.com website.
Although the team considered by most to be the likely South African flag-bearer in this year’s Super Rugby competition lost 23-15 on an inclement Northern Hemisphere day, White said in his post trip wash-out that he had always told the players to be realistic about what they could expect against the inform English side so early in the new year.
“I said to the players afterwards in the change-room that we’d be naive to think we were going to beat a team that’s top of the Premiership and consistently been in the top three over the past three years,” said White.
“They’ve now just qualified for the Heineken Cup quarterfinals and they have an unbelievable squad, even though they had a few players away with England. Our Springboks were on holiday for a month so it was always going to be tough for us.”
White said that one of the good things about the game was that while it showed that hard yards still had to be put in during training in the build-up to the opening Super Rugby game against the Bulls at Kings Park on 15 February, it had unveiled several positives. And unsurprisingly, the performance of young inside centre Andre Esterhuizen was one of those.
“He is still Under-20, he has a long future of him. It’s quite a daunting task to play in that weather and those conditions, and played quite well. It wasn’t just him dumped in the deep end, we have a new 10 and that was his first game, also a new 15. People talk about the core or spine of a team comprising hooker, eighthman, scrumhalf, flyhalf and fullback. When the fullback and flyhalf are new boys, it is also difficult for the No 12. So I was happy with the performances.
“I think we got a lot more answers than questions out of the game. I know where we are, the players will take confidence from the things we did and they know, which is also a bonus, that they need to work hard. It’s not just going to happen, and what was nice was that we know after that game that we still have hard yards to put in.”
The good news for Sharks fans is that the suspected neck injury that forced wing Lwazi Mvovo to be stretchered from the field early in the second half at the Allianz Stadium doesn’t look serious enough to keep him out of selection consideration for the Bulls game and White says he has almost a full squad to choose from for the next warm-up fixture against the Lions next week.
“We didn’t pick up too many injuries in the Saracens game, just a couple of guys with bumps and bruises but nothing significant,” he said.