Jake White says that the Sharks have been affected by the unfortunate timing of the international break. BRENTON CHELIN reports.
Having topped the log for much of the season, consecutive defeats to the Stormers and the Cheetahs either side of the Test window has halted their progress. They now find themselves in third place and at risk of missing out on a home semi-final, which for long stretches of the season seemed a given. Such are the margins at the top, laments Sharks director of rugby Jake White.
'The Waratahs are the top side and they've won 11 games and we've won 10 so it shows you how small the margins are,' White told SARugbymag.co.za. 'It depends on what happens in Christchurch on Saturday morning. If the Crusaders lose, then we'll have to win. If the Crusaders get a bonus point, we'll have to get a bonus point. Of course we've lost momentum. A month off with 11 Springboks away will do that to you.'
Having missed out on the chance to top the log and perhaps secure a home final, the Sharks now look likely to travel at some point during the play-offs.
'We're not down on the fact that we might have topped the log,' said White. 'We are the only South African side still in with a chance of winning the competition, and we get [Pat] Lambie and [Paul] Jordaan back soon so that will give us a boost moving into the play-offs, wherever we're playing. Ideally we would like to play at home, but if it means we've got to travel, we back ourselves and believe that we're good enough to win away from home. We've shown that already this season.'
White is under no illusions as to how tough the task will be at Newlands this weekend, where the Sharks will come up against a resurgent Stormers outfit.
'If you asked anyone at the beginning of the season, the Stormers were expected to do well. They had a tough draw and a tour from hell, but since they've returned they have turned things around. We're finally starting to see what we expected to see from them at the beginning of the season. We will need to play for 85 minutes against them, something we didn't do in Durban.'
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images