Bok-less Sharks bank on Muller

2009-08-19 00:00

THE Sharks will be without their 10 Tri-Nations Springboks when they face the log-leading Griquas in Saturday’s Currie Cup game at King’s Park, but they could have captain and lock Johann Muller back in the frontline.

The Springboks leave on their Tri-Nations tour to Australia and New Zealand on Monday, but they will assemble in Johannesburg tomorrow and Odwa Ndungane, Ryan Kankowski and Jannie du Plessis, who saw action against the Lions at the weekend, will not be available for the Sharks.

The good news is that Muller and halfbacks Juan Martin Hernandez and Rory Kockott could be included when the Sharks starting line-up is named tomorrow.

Grant Bashford, the Sharks assis­tant coach, said yesterday that the announcement of the team would be delayed as late as possible to provide everyone in the squad with a chance to prove their fitness.

“Kockott has bruising to the bone in the shoulder and hopefully he will be right for the weekend. Muller, coming off a broken arm, will have x-rays as a precaution, but he has trained with little discomfort and we are confident that he will make it,” he said.

Hernandez, who turned an ankle in making his debut against the Leopards, is running without much discomfort but, said Bashford, he will be tested later in the week.

The Sharks backline coach said the depth in the squad “had been a revelation.”

“We have always known that (flyhalves) Guy Cronje and Monty Dumond had talent, but they lacked confidence and they are now gaining in that area. Monty has made huge steps in the right direction and has shown real courage on defence.”

The top-of-the-table clash on Saturday is between attacking side in the first round of the Currie Cup (Griquas) and the tightest defence (Sharks), Bashford added.

He said the Sharks had struggled in the scrums against the Lions on Saturday and “this inhibited our attack”.

“We scored good tries from counter-attack and broken play but not by building up the phases. Our territory and possession stats were right down and we will have to work on that. But we made good use of the little ball we got, so we will look to match attack with defence to get the result we want this weekend.”

Bashford said the Lions will still be wondering how they managed to lose a game with all the possession they had.

“But we are concerned that we were forced to make that many tackles and you cannot keep doing that.”

Bashford pointed out that traditionally Griquas are exceptionally tough to beat in Kimberley, but battle on the road.

“They have not won in Durban for 10 years, but we know they are a different kettle of fish this season, with away wins over Free State and the Lions.

“They are playing a style of rugby that is winning games. They are phy­sical and they are competitive at the breakdown and they have a dangerous scrumhalf in Sarel Pretorius.

“They must be doing something right to be top of the log and we will certainly respect them as dangerous opponents,” said Bashford.

Saturday’s match kicks off at 3 pm.

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