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White: Sharks need winning start in Super Rugby

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Sportal.co.nz     14 Feb 2014     Getty Images

The game is a genuine clash of the heavyweights. The Sharks have 11 internationals in their starting XV while the Bulls have 10 across their squad with former Springbok locking ace Victor Matfield starting on the bench.

"Let's take nothing away from the Bulls, they've won the competition three times and that's more than any other South African side," White told SAPA.

"The challenge we sit with is if we're not good enough to beat the Bulls at hom in this round, the chances are we will struggle against the likes of the Blues and Crusaders in Auckland and Christchurch," he said.

"That's what it takes to win this competition. You have to beat teams like that and the Bulls at home."

In Bloemfontein, Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske has told fullback Willie le Roux he has free rein against the Lions, back in the competition after a year out.

"Willie is one of about five percent of those players in the world that you cannot bind within your conventional structures. He has shown in the past that his decision-making is probably the best of any player in South Africa.

"I believe it will be fatal if we hamper his skills by forcing him to adhere to our structures.

"He always gets the benefit of the doubt and he always makes the right decisions. He has the freedom to do whatever he wants on the playing field," he said.

The Cheetahs will field returning first five-eighths Johan Goosen after missing much of last year due to injury.

Stormers coach Allister Coetzee expects improved all-round performances from South African sides in Super Rugby this year.

As the South African sides prepare to open the tournament when the Sharks host the Bulls and the Cheetahs meet the Lions on Sunday morning (NZT), Coetzee's Stormers sit out the first round before playing the Lions in round two.

"In general I would say the South African teams will be stronger," he told Reuters.

"I was looking the squads and to me they all look to be settled squads who, a year on from last year, should be more mature."

Coetzee said he was happy with where the Stormers were in their build-up, compared to last year, and was pleased at the strength in his front row where there was more depth on call.

Schalk Burger's return had also given the side which conceded the least number of points last season a lift.

"There is no doubt about his fitness, he is injuryn-free with no niggles and looks in great shape.

"In our pack there is a lot of competition, from flank to hooker and right across the front row. That is very healthy for us," he said.