VIDEO: Jake White installs 'rested' Sharks as SA Conference favourites
It will be a relieved Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White that arrived back in South Africa, following a challenging tour of Europe – with losses to Glasgow Warriors (21-35) and Munster (17-31), softened by an emphatic win over Benetton (44-22) in Treviso at the weekend.
“The players got some return for the efforts they put in,” White said of the United Rugby Championship encounter with the Italian outfit, adding: “We’ll get ourselves ready for a massive clash against the Sharks.”
It will be a Sharks team sans their Springboks – those not part of the 25-man squad that departs on Saturday for South Africa’s opening tour match against Ireland in Dublin on November 5.
Even without the likes of Makazole Mapimpi, Jaden Hendrikse, Siyamthanda Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth, Mbongeni Mbonambi and Retshegofaditswe Nché, the Sharks can field a formidable team.
Players like Aphelele Fassi, Werner Kok, Marnus Potgieter, Ben Tapuai, Boeta Chamberlain, Phendulani Buthelezi, Vincent Tshituka, Hyron Andrews, Thomas du Toit, Kerron van Vuuren, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Carlu Sadie, Reniel Hugo, James Venter, Sikhumbuzo Notshe and Cameron Wright are expected to give the rejuvenated Bulls a run for their money.
The Sharks also had an unexpected ‘bye’ this past weekend – the result of the decision to postpone the game against Ulster as a result of a mass outbreak of gastroenteritis in the Irish team.
Ulster and Scottish outfit Glasgow Warriors were both forced to postpone their URC games in South Africa this weekend because of the outbreak of “gastroenteritis infections”.
The Warriors were due to face Lions in Johannesburg, with Ulster scheduled to play the Sharks in Durban.
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White said they have learned some important lessons from the losses to Munster, at the iconic Thomond Park, and being run off their feet in Glasgow.
“We just have to keep working with these young players,” White told @rugby365com, adding that they have to reproduce the second-half performance against Benetton week in and week out.
“It doesn’t get any tougher than the Sharks,” he said of the Round Seven encounter at Loftus Versfeld on Sunday.
“Given the players they have, they must be the favourites in the South African conference.
“We have to recover nicely and get ourselves ready for Loftus.”
He added that the second-half performance in Treviso may just be what they need to kick-start their campaign – especially after the underwhelming performance in the first two matches on tour.
“Maybe this away win, a bonus-point and [scoring] 40 points in the second half is maybe what we needed as a group,” the Bulls boss said.
“They are relieved, but it wasn’t because they didn’t work for it. They got rewarded for their efforts.
“We play on Sunday, so we have a bit of an extended turnaround.”
He will assess the fitness of the players and put together a team that will be ready to face the Sharks in Pretoria.