Jake White speaks about Sharks defeat to Crusaders

The Sharks returned home yesterday humbled by the scale of their 38-6 reverse against the Crusaders in the Super Rugby semi-final but they offered no excuses, and their coach Jake White took the optimistic view that valuable lessons had been learned by coaching staff and players alike in their first season together.

“We just did not pitch on the day, and I wish I could tell you why,” White said yesterday. “It could have been the travel, it could have been selection, it could have been this and it could have been that, and who knows what else but the fact remains that we came up against a red-hot Crusaders team and they dominated us to the extent that we could not fire a shot back at them, and that is the most disappointing thing about the game.”

White said that the encouraging thing is that the players acknowledged they had failed to respond to the intensity and passion with which the Crusaders had started the game and then maintained until the final whistle when they mauled a try from a lineout at the corner flag that was typical of how the Sharks have often scored this season.

“I would have been a more worried man had I not seen now disappointed the players were in the change room after the game because they knew they should have given a better account of themselves,” White said. “They knew we had not given it our best shot despite all our pre-game determination to do otherwise.”

White said the game reminded him of the 2009 final between the Bulls and the Chiefs when the Kiwis were blown away by 60 points in Pretoria. The Bulls could do nothing wrong on that night while the Chiefs, at best, could not get beyond second gear.

“The Crusaders were really good on the night and even their kicking was much better than ours, which is usually a strength of ours,” White said. “They kicked twice as much as us and twice as well.”

At the three-quarter mark, White said he realised that “the horse had bolted” and emptied his bench, even if it meant bringing off key players in Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Cobus Reinach et al.

“We could have kept on all the front-line guys and tried to battle it out to a closer score, but the truth is that we could not win the game and I brought on all the substitutes so that they could get a feel of what it is like to play a team like the Crusaders when they are firing on all cylinders,” White said.

“It was about growing the squad in a big-game situation,” he said. “The game was lost but experience could be gained, and we must not forget that this was the first season that I was working with this squad, and them with me.”

The coach correctly pointed out that the season was hardly a failure for a Sharks team than convincingly advanced much further than any other South African team and had indeed wrapped up the South African Conference not long after the half way mark in the competition.

“There has been a historical tendency for SA teams that have won the Currie Cup to follow up with poor showings in Super Rugby, but that did not happen with us,” White said. “But why we failed so miserably in the semi-final is difficult to answer. The most important thing is that the players know it was not good enough, that we let ourselves down, and we left Christchurch having gained a heck of a lot of experience, and that goes for the entire group of players and coaches.”

by Mike Greenaway

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About Martin Myers
Music Supervisor / Artist and Talent Manager / Publicist / Music Exchange Founder / Owner Triple M Entertainment

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