Lions form unsurprising – White

Date published: March 4 2014

Sharks boss Jake White says the Lions' fine start to Super Rugby came as no surprise to him ahead of the pair's Durban meeting.

Sharks boss Jake White says the Lions' fine start to Super Rugby came as no surprise to him ahead of the pair's Durban meeting.

Saturday sees White's Sharks take on Johan Ackermann's Johannesburg-based franchise, who won two of their opening three games against the Cheetahs and the Stormers.

White's charges are unbeaten in the tournament so far, but the ex-Springbok coach who lifted the 2007 World Cup is not taken aback by the Lions' early promise.

“The Lions epitomise everything about South African rugby: everyone was talking about how surprised they were about how competitive the Kings were this time last year, and now they're saying it about the Lions.,” said White.

“The South African psyche is this: the guys who have their backs against the wall and are desperate to do well, whether it's a national or provincial team, or a team that has just come into the tournament, it's almost a given that that's how they will perform.

“Their competitiveness also shows the depth in South African rugby. People thought with all the new guys, the Lions would be no-hopers, but they went and defeated the Stormers by a massive amount of points, and winning a real do-or-die fight against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein which is also quite tough.

“They knocked over a team like the Stormers who everyone rated as one of the top teams in South Africa and they beat the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. In those two weeks they showed they can compete.

“What they have shown us is that you can't take them lightly and you can't go into the game thinking it's just going to happen. For us it's about what we do this week in the build-up to the game to give ourselves a fair chance.”

White, whose Brumbies team last year made the final of the tournament, losing 27-22 to the Chiefs, admitted he was keeping his feet on the ground in spite of the Sharks' winning start to Super Rugby.

“It's early days in the competition still, there will always be things you have to work on in your game. What I can take out of our two performances so far that are really positive is that we played two very different teams,” added White.

“One a forward dominated team in week one when we played really well and scored four tries. And then played a backs dominated game in week two against the Hurricanes who offer threats that are so vastly different to the Bulls, and we managed to keep them tryless.

“That meant that we not only defended well around the rucks against the Bulls and stopped them with their forward dominating game, we were also good enough to defend wide and cut the Hurricanes off in the wide channels. That's always nice because it means there is an understanding about how we can adapt our game.

“We have a tough run coming up with the Lions and Reds, and then the Bulls up at Loftus before we host the Waratahs who are one of the biggest teams in the competition.”