White denies pressure on Christian Leali'ifano
July 26, 2013
Christian Leali'ifano has a head for pressure situations © Getty Images
Morne Steyn is kicking almost nine goals from every 10 attempts at Loftus Versfeld in 2013, while visiting teams have kicked fewer than six from 10. Yet Brumbies coach Jake White insists Christian Leali'ifano is under no extra pressure to perform during the Super Rugby semi-final in Pretoria.
"Morne obviously kicks better at his home ground, but that doesn't mean the pressure is then on Christian," White said. "It's not just a big game for [Lealiifano]; it's a big game for everybody."
Leali'ifano is the second-leading points scorer in Super Rugby this season, with 195 points, behind only Steyn (230 points): the Brumbies' inside centre boasts a respectable accuracy rate of 76.4% that increases to 87.5% when only penalties are tallied; yet he isn't without his erratic moments. He temporarily lost his range in the Super Rugby qualifier against the Cheetahs at Canberra Stadium, missing two penalties he'd normally land, but he recovered to help post a slim two-point victory.
Leali'ifano can bank on the fact he'll have a few important moments at Loftus Versfeld, with the Brumbies having been kept tryless in their past two games and with Pretoria's high altitude enabling longer kicks, Fortunately, he thrives on pressure, having shown as much when he announced himself as a Wallabies player in converting a late try out wide to sink the British & Irish Lions in the second Test at Etihad Stadium in Melboiurne.
And his latest performance against the Bulls, in Canberra, will give him the most confidence. He outkicked Steyn in that fixture in late March, and nailed a last-grasp penalty after the siren to deliver the Brumbies a three-point win.
Follow live text commentary of the Super Rugby semi-final between the Bulls and the Brumbies on Saturday, July 27, from 5pm (RSA), 3pm (GMT), 3am (June 28, NZT), 1am (June 28, EST)
Greg Growden and Russell Barwick preview the Super Rugby semi-finals