Sharks coach Jake White couldn’t resist taking pot shots at NSW Waratahs counterpart Michael Cheika after his Super Rugby leaders niggled their way to a spiteful 32-10 victory in Durban.
Waratahs winger Rob Horne and Sharks centre Francois Steyn are both facing possible suspensions after being cited for ugly first half incidents that inexplicably escaped yellow card punishment.
In a physically brutal and intense match featuring numerous off-the-ball incidents, Waratahs coach Cheika was left mystified by a game-changing decision by New Zealand referee Mike Fraser to sin-bin his captain Dave Dennis for a mere push at a scrum in the 48th minute.
When told of Cheika’s thoughts on the crippling 19-9 penalty count that went against the visitors, former Brumbies coach White continued a feud by baiting his NSW counterpart.
“Whatever Michael Cheika says, we believe, don’t we?” said White, lighting the fuse should the two heavyweight sides meet again come finals time.
“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.”
White also couldn’t resist poking fun at Cheika over breaking a glass pane at Canberra Stadium two weeks ago.
“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,” he said.
Cheika denied a comment made in television commentary that following Dennis’ sin-binning, he went down to the sideline to remonstrate with the assistant referee.
“I went down to (defensive coach Nathan Grey) when we lost the man to re-arrange a few things with the line-out,” he said.
However, he was far from pleased.
Dennis’ yellow card proved crucial, as Sharks captain Bismarck du Plessis immediately crashed over for the first try, virtually sealing the result at 19-3.
Israel Folau’s absence at the back was telling as the Waratahs failed to make the most of some prime first half chances.
Bernard Foley also missed two shots at penalty goal, which could have kept the visitors in touch at the break.
Horne has been charged by the citing commissioner with striking after setting the tone for the fiery encounter when he caught Steyn high with a swinging arm in the 16th minute, initially escaping with just a warning and penalty.
Steyn is charged with a dangerous tackle after backslamming Waratahs centre Kurtley Beale eight minutes later, forcing him off the field for a short time for a concussion test.
In the end it was the slightest push from Dennis to Jannie du Plessis at a scrum which brought about the first and only yellow card, even though the Sharks prop retaliated with an even firmer shove.
“With everything that went on we had a player sent to the sin-bin for pushing. You can make what you want of that,” said Cheika, with his side missing a chance to go to the top of the Australian Conference.
“It’s obvious. You can’t give away (that many) penalties and win a game away from home. It’s impossible.
“When the level goes up we’ve got to make sure we bring our accuracy as well as our intensity.
“It’s just a learning curve for us.”