Jake White fires shots at competition revamp

SPEAKING HIS MIND: Sharks boss Jake White.
SPEAKING HIS MIND: Sharks boss Jake White.

Jake White is uneasy about Sanzar's clumsy Super Rugby revamp.

The former Springboks coach, in Christchurch preparing the Sharks to play the Crusaders tomorrow night, yesterday picked holes in the proposed 18-team structure that will comprise four conferences and two regional groups.

"I'm not a fan of that system," White emphasised. "I just sense there are so many things that could go right or wrong in the makeup of that group."

The 2007 World Cup-winning coach is concerned about mismatched games hindering teams' progress and worried the crossover games between the groups will not result in a fair competition.

While the confusing competition structure will assist in player welfare, because there is less travel and the brutal home derbies will not be so frequent, White believed the draw had the potential to penalise the best teams.

"You could end up, in two years, getting the toughest draw and I don't believe this competition should be determined by how your draw looks.

"It should be because you have got a good side. To be fair, the flaws that are in this system now are you could end up winning this competition because of the draw."

He understood what Sanzar were trying to do by expanding their competition, and growing their audience in Argentina and possibly Asia or Europe, but would prefer to see a pure competition.

Many teams may feel they enter a game of Russian roulette as they wait for the draw to be revealed.

It shouldn't be that way, says White.

"But my feeling in this case is that less would have been more. Maybe I'm a bit old school but I remember a time when you played everybody and you tested yourself against the best."

White also confirmed he will persist with Frans Steyn at first five-eighths against the Crusaders, despite his poor performance in last weekend's 16-9 defeat to the Brumbies.

Injury to Patrick Lambie has forced White to start Steyn, who can also start at fullback or the midfield, at No 10 and he wasn't tempted to start the less-experienced Tim Swiel.

The competition-leading Sharks have won eight of their 11 matches but have suffered defeats to the Brumbies and Highlanders in their last three fixtures. They have never won in Christchurch but that won't inspire White to force his side, led by rugged hooker Bismarck du Plessis, to tip their gameplan over.

"I'm conservative. Look at the Crusaders, they have proved it. You don't have to be flashy. There are no highlights packages in the Crusaders' top drawer but they have got results.

"They have played to their strengths. I think the laws and the way laws have been interpreted by referees don't afford teams to play too much in their own half."

"There are just too many 50-50 calls that go against you. And until the lawmakers reward teams for building pressure and holding the ball for 10-12 phases from anywhere on the field . . . It's simple, you have to play the game the way it is being officiated."