DURBAN: Jake White was only too eager to pour salt into the gaping wounds left in the Waratahs’ confidence by his new team the Sharks.
The former Brumbies coach, who made niggling the Michael Cheika-led Waratahs a sport during his stint in Canberra last year, was delighted with his side’s commanding 32-10 victory at Kings Park on Saturday.
White labelled the win – which cemented the side’s spot at the top of the Super Rugby ladder – a “huge result” and thanked Cheika for handing him the ammunition.
“We had to front up today, they are very abrasive, they’ve got big, strong ball-runners, they bashed the Reds, so we knew we would have to front up,” he said.
“There had been a lot of talk in the media about [going] toe to toe and intensity and aggression, so I suppose I must thank Mike [Cheika] for making my team talk easier, I just put it all on the board.”
Cheika suggested the game, despite the score line, was “tight”, tilted only by a massively lopsided penalty count.
“It was only two tries to one in the end, it was not like we were chasing tries everywhere,” he said.
“It was a tight game in many aspects and we finally got a try in the end…”.
When that assessment was put to White, he said: “Whatever Michael Cheika says, we believe, don’t we”.
He also dredged up the infamous broken door incident from the Brumbies-Waratahs game three weeks ago. Cheika accidentally shattered the pane of glass in the Canberra Stadium facility when he pushed open the door at the end of the match.
White was asked for his take on the penalty count, which grew to 19-9 against NSW and was questioned by Cheika in his post-match comments.
“I just want to see if our coaches’ box is still alright, because I have to get [chief executive John Smit] to get some insurance for it,” White said.
“Hopefully it’s not too damaged.”
The niggle goes back some way, but was generally one-sided when both were coaching in Australia.
White raised eyebrows in the Waratahs when he said it would be an “indictment” on Australia if NSW fullback Israel Folau was picked by the Wallabies before agreeing to extend his one-year stay in rugby.
He also questioned, very early on last season, whether the much-talked about running rugby style Cheika had promised NSW fans had in fact materialised.
On the field both coaches drew blood. The Waratahs copped a 35-6 hiding in Canberra in round four before turning the tables with a 28-22 win in Sydney in round 14.
Cheika was pleased with the team’s defensive effort – an aspect they worked on all week at training – but said their attack was hobbled at the ruck and then by handling errors.
“The backs are trying to align and come onto the ball, so when the ball bobbles around at the ruck the backs come, they stop, they come again, passes weren’t great tonight,” he said.
“We were a bit across field, not as direct as we could have been, and when you run across field passes often go astray.
“That attacking part of the game that has been a strong point for us, we were disappointed with tonight, for sure.”
The result leaves the Waratahs inside the top six but one point behind the Brumbies in the Australian conference.
A win against the Sharks would have put the Waratahs at a commanding lead in the Australian conference after the Brumbies’ loss to Melbourne on Friday.
The squad travels to Cape Town on Wednesday to play the Stormers. They will be bolstered by the arrival of Folau from Australia, although his fitness is still being monitored.