Sharks can beat Kiwis on path to final - White

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 15:55 14/07/2014
Jake White
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SPEAKING HIS MIND: Sharks boss Jake White.

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Jake White believes his Sharks have the attitude to beat the Highlanders and Crusaders on successive weekends and reach another Super Rugby final.

The Sharks confirmed their position as the top South African side, arresting some sloppy recent form with a dominant 34-10 win over the Stormers in Cape Town in the final round-robin match.

That left the Sharks in third place and South Africa's only playoffs hope now face a tough assignment to try to take the title for the first time.

First up are the Highlanders in Durban. The winner of that match then travels to Christchurch to take on the Crusaders. A likely clash against the table-topping Waratahs could follow for the silverware.

The Sharks, four-time runners-up in this competition, believe they can beat the odds.

"We wanted to get some momentum going into the playoffs, in a lot of ways the way we played now is probably the way we want to play in the next couple of rounds because it is all knock-out now," White said of the style his team produced against the Stormers and what they needed moving forward.

"I just think we need to copy and paste, it sounds obvious but it is there. We played and strangled them and when we got a turnover we scored from 60 yards out.
"We defended, I think at one stage 70 percent of the possession had gone to the Stormers, and if we can replicate that for three weeks we can win the competition it is as simple as that."

White believes the defensive attitude his team is displaying will be crucial for the playoffs.

"You can't coach that, when you have been defending for 70 per cent of the time against guys that are desperately coming at your line, that makes coaches happy," he said.

"That is the part of the game that comes from the players, you can have all the defensive structures and talk about how you are going to get off the line but when you see it actually happening and you see the confidence they get when the bench comes on and everyone is still buying into the group then you get happy.
"If you take that into a game at home, into a full house in Durban and then a trip overseas to beat two teams that we beat this year we can't be laughing at that."

The Shark' defence was huge earlier in the season when they beat the Crusaders in Christchurch, operating with just 13 men at one stage.

The Highlanders made the post-season for the first time since 2002 but they limped into the playoffs rather than arriving with a swagger after heavy losses to the Waratahs and Crusaders.

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They upset the Sharks 34-18 in Durban in round-robin play but need a major lift in performance to repeat their success in this weekend's pressure-cooker environment.

They will have inspirational All Black Ben Smith back in their mix after he missed last Saturday's loss to the Crusaders with a leg infection.

- Stuff

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