White throws the dice

Sharks play­ing Sara­cens may be a costly gam­ble

Weekend Witness - - Classifieds - JOHN BISHOP Sharks rugby TV HIGH­LIGHTS THIS WEEKEND

JAKE White is look­ing to win on both the swings and the round­abouts when the Sharks see ac­tion for the first time this year at Al­lianz Park in Lon­don where they will face a for­mi­da­ble Sara­cens out­fit late this af­ter­noon.

White’s dilemma is that he wants his Sharks ex­posed to tough, test­ing op­po­si­tion as they pre­pare for their Su­per Rugby opener against the Bulls in Dur­ban on Fe­bru­ary 15. But this ridicu­lously early in­tro­duc­tion to the sea­son — a win­ter sport start­ing in Jan­uary — does come with the risk of in­jury as the Sharks face bat­tle­hard­ened op­po­si­tion, and this is one of White’s ma­jor con­cerns.

(It was in the cor­re­spond­ing game last year — against the Leop­ards at Wood­burn Sta­dium — that Sharks coach John Plumtree lost first­choice cen­tre Tim White­head and cap­tain Kee­gan Daniel to se­ri­ous in­juries and they joined Bis­marck du Plessis and Willem Al­berts on the side­lines).

“The most im­por­tant thing about that game is that we get through it in­jury­free,” says White of the Sara­cens game.

The Sharks coach is also con­cerned that ex­pec­ta­tions could be too high.

“I hope peo­ple would ap­pre­ci­ate that Sara­cens, the Premier­ship lead­ers, are in the mid­dle of their sea­son, while this is the first hit­out for us. We haven’t had any con­tact sit­u­a­tions of a fully­fledged fix­ture.”

But White be­lieves that Sara­cens will pro­vide his play­ers with just the type of op­po­si­tion they need ahead of the Bulls con­test.

“This game mim­ics a lit­tle bit of what we can ex­pect from the Bulls. Sara­cens play a lit­tle bit like the Bulls. They have a big pack of for­wards, their set­piece is strong, they kick a lot. It gives me and the coach­ing staff an op­por­tu­nity to see the things we want to do against the Bulls.”

White said he would be play­ing his cards close to his chest be­cause the game is be­ing tele­vised.

“But there will be a lot of anal­y­sis of the game.”

There will also be a num­ber of fas­ci­nat­ing duels across the ar­ti­fi­cial turf at Al­lianz Park with the con­tests at lock and in mid­field of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est.

The li­ne­out bat­tle will be be­tween the Sharks’ two 21­yearold locks, Spring­bok Pi­eterSteph du Toit and new sign­ing Eti­enne Oosthuizen, and Sara­cens’ ex­pe­ri­enced Eng­land Test sec­ond­row­ers in vet­eran Steve Borth­wick and Mouritz Botha.

White will also be hop­ing that his young backs stand up to the chal­lenge.

Tim Swiel, im­ported from Cape Town, has been pre­ferred to Fred Zeilinga as Pat Lam­bie’s un­der­study at fly­half to­day, and he faces a tough bap­tism. Swiel will be up against the most pro­lific points­scorer in the English Premier­ship in the 33­year­old Char­lie Hodg­son, an ex­pe­ri­enced Test fly­half who has Spring­bok scrumhalf Neil de Kock part­ner­ing him at half­back.

Hodg­son said he was ex­cited about play­ing against a lead­ing South African team for the first time in a 14­year ca­reer.

“It might seem un­usual to be play­ing a match like this in the mid­dle of our sea­son, but we [Sara­cens] are a club con­stantly chal­leng­ing con­ven­tions and there is a real buzz around the train­ing ground. The Sharks are one of the top teams in Su­per Rugby and we’ll have to be at our best to com­pete against a team with all their Spring­boks.”

The Sharks have two other 20­some­things in full­back Tyler Fisher and in­side cen­tre An­dre Ester­huizen and th­ese two young­sters will also be look­ing to play their way into White’s Su­per Rugby match squad for the Bulls game.

The Sharks pack con­tains most of the fa­mil­iar names with five cur­rent Boks and an all­Test front­row. There are also five South Africans among the Sara­cens for­wards and the two sets of for­wards ap­pear well matched.

And watch­ing the out­come with more than pass­ing in­ter­est will be Bren­dan Ven­ter, who was in charge of the Sharks less than three months ago when they

World Se­ries, Las Ve­gas. won the Cur­rie Cup and is still Sara­cens’ tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor.

The Sara­cens, who have been in ex­cel­lent form this English win­ter and have all the mo­men­tum, should pre­vail against the un­der­done Sharks. But White will think that the long trek north was worth the ef­fort if the Sharks are com­pet­i­tive, his young tal­ent stand tall and there are no se­ri­ous in­juries.

15. Tyler Fisher, 14. Odwa Ndun­gane, 13. Paul Jor­daan, 12. An­dre Ester­huizen, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Tim Swiel, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8. Willem Al­berts, 7. Jean Dey­sel, 6. Tera Mtembu, 5. Pi­eter­Steph du Toit, 4. Eti­enne Oosthuizen, 3. Jan­nie du Plessis, 2. Bis­marck du Plessis (cap­tain), 1. Tendai Mtawarira. Re­place­ments: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Dale Chad­wick, 18. Lourens Adri­aanse, 19. Stephan Lewies, 20. Jac­ques Botes, 21. Charl McLeod, 22. Heimar Wil­liams, 23. Jaco van Ton­der.

15. Chris Wyles; 14. James Short, 13. Michael Tag­i­cak­ibau, 12. Marcelo Bosch, 11. David Stret­tle; 10. Char­lie Hodg­son, 9. Neil de Kock; 1. Richard Bar­ring­ton, 2. Schalk Brits, 3. Matt Stevens, 4. Steve Borth­wick (c), 5. Mouritz Botha, 6. Justin Melck, 7. Jac­ques Burger, 8. Ernst Jou­bert. Re­place­ments: 16. Scott Spurl­ing, 17. Nick Auterac, 18. Petrus Du Plessis, 19. Tom Jubb, 20. Takashi Kiku­tani, 21. Richard Wig­glesworth, 22. Dun­can Tay­lor, 23. Sam Stan­ley.

4.30 pm (SA time). CSN, SS1 and SSHD.

2.35 pm: Foot­ball — FA Cup Round 4, AFC Bournemouth v Liver­pool. 4.55 pm: Foot­ball — FA Cup, round four, Bolton Wan­der­ers v Cardiff City. 7.20 pm: Foot­ball — FA Cup, round four, Steve­nage v Ever­ton.

4.45 pm: Foot­ball — Orange African Na­tions Cham­pi­onship QF, Morocco v Nige­ria. 8.15 pm: Foot­ball — Orange African Na­tions Cham­pi­onship QF, Mali v Zim­babwe.

11.30 am: Golf — Euro­pean Tour, Qatar Mas­ters, day four.

9.40 am: Cricket — Big Bash Twenty20, Syd­ney Thun­der v Syd­ney Six­ers. 8 pm: Golf — PGA Tour, Farm­ers Insurance Open, day three.

12.12 am: Rugby — HSBC Sevens World Se­ries, round four, South Africa v Kenya. 2.20 am: Rugby — HSBC Sevens World Se­ries, con­tin­ues. 10 am: Ten­nis — Aus­tralian Open Men’s Fi­nal, Rafael Nadal v Stanis­las Wawrinka. 7.10 pm — noon: Rugby, HSBC Sevens World Se­ries, ends.

5.10 am: Cricket — Aus­tralia v Eng­land, fifth ODI. 1.20 pm: Cricket — Ram Slam T20 Chal­ lenge, Dol­phins v War­riors, con­tin­ues. 3.15 pm: Cricket — Ram Slam T20 Chal­lenge, Ti­tans v Highveld Li­ons.

2.50 pm: Foot­ball — FA Cup, round four ­ Sh­effield Utd v Ful­ham. 5.25 pm: Foot­ball — FA Cup, round four, Chelsea v Stoke City. 7.30 pm: Foot­ball — FA Cup Draw, fifth round.

4.45 pm: Foot­ ball — Orange African Na­tions Cham­pi­onship QF, Gabon v Libya. 8.15 pm: Foot­ball — Orange African Na­tions Cham­pi­onship QF, Ghana v Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo.

11.45 am: Cricket — Ram Slam T20 Chal­lenge, Dol­phins v War­riors.

8 pm: Golf — PGA Tour, Farm­ers Insurance Open, day four.

PHOTO: GALLO IM­AGES

Jake White starts his ten­ure as Sharks coach to­day with a pre­sea­son friendly against English club Sara­cens.

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