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Jake White masters culture, not tactics

Canberra Times logo Canberra Times 9/05/2014 David Barbeler

It's not Jake White's tactics the Brumbies fear, but his ability to quickly administer a winning culture.

You can analyse statistics between the Brumbies and the Sharks ahead of their top-of-the-table Super Rugby clash all you want.

But Brumbies captain Ben Mowen says when push comes to shove, most teams employ similar tactics anyway.

It's the mental frame White puts teams in to be wary of, says Mowen, whose side went from laughing stock to runners-up in just two years under White.

"The biggest thing I see in Jake's impression of that side is that he's created a winning culture," Mowen said.

"They didn't have it last year.

"He's certainly a bloke that comes into teams and gets them winning quickly."

White will make his much-hyped return to Canberra Stadium on Saturday after leaving the Brumbies halfway through a four-year coaching contract to become director of rugby at the Sharks.

It provides an intriguing side plot to a top-of-the-table clash between two teams with recent history.

The Brumbies launched a first-half ambush on the Sharks in Durban last year to record a 29-10 victory and announce themselves as title contenders.

Despite White being the orchestrator of that thumping, Mowen knows first hand he'll now be using it to spur the Sharks towards revenge.

"We know how Jake's motivational stuff works," Mowen said.

"And if I was part of the side that got belted the year before that's what I would be talking about as well."

Brumbies director of rugby Laurie Fisher has named 120kg back-row enforcer Fotu Auelua for the clash, the only change made after last week's 40-20 loss to the Crusaders.

"We're hoping the game runs to give him opportunity early, then we can feed off the back of what he does," Fisher said of a tactic the Brumbies used to great effect in last year's match-up.

Back from a knee injury suffered during the trials, Auelua's inclusion is a case of fighting fire with fire, as Fisher rates the Sharks' monster forward pack as having the best ball carriers in Super Rugby.

"Particularly Willem Alberts, Jean Deysel and Ryan Kankowski," Fisher said.

"They are big and they run hard. They've also torn apart some scrums this year with that Springbok front row."

In fact, so strong is the Sharks' pack, that Fisher freely admits his side will probably lose if they focus on individual match-ups.

"But if we stay true to what we do, which in the forward pack is making sure we are working as eight - strength in numbers - then we'll really challenge them," he said.

The ladder-leading Sharks have made three changes after last week's unconvincing 22-16 win over the Melbourne Rebels.

Flanker Keegan Daniel replaces the injured Marcell Coetzee, while halfback Cobus Reinach and No.12 Paul Jordaan have also been named to start.

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