Boks to add bite to Sharks

2008-02-06 00:00

DICK Muir is looking to his returning World Cup Springboks, and veteran lock Johan Ackermann, to add a hard, physical edge to his Sharks team for tonight’s friendly against the Lions, at King’s Park in Durban.

Muir said yesterday that he had been disappointed with several areas of the Sharks’ performance in their 24-24 draw against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein at the weekend.

“We lacked our usual commitment and physicality at the breakdown and our defence was also not as strong as I would like it to be.”

The Sharks coach has included most of his World Cup Springboks, in what is close to his strongest available line-up.

In contrast, Lions coach Eugene Eloff is looking to start the friendly with his reserves, before adding his more talented players for the final quarter.

The Sharks are 10 days away from their Super 14 opener against the Western Force in Durban on Friday, February 15, and Muir wants to quickly settle on his strongest unit.

Apart from the new French face in Freddie Michalak at flyhalf, Muir has opted for familiar combinations at lock, loose forward and in the midfield.

The 37-year-old Ackermann, who agreed to stay fit in his own time, as back-up to the recuperating Steven Sykes, is back and will be used in the opening weeks.

He is back with his old partner and new captain, Johann Muller, in the second row.

The loose forwards Venter, Botes and Kankowski are back, but there is a new face in the front-row, with Bok tighthead Jannie du Plessis packing down alongside his younger brother and hooker, Bismarck.

Jannie du Plessis may well start on the loosehead in place of Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira against the Western Force, with Bok BJ Botha returning on the tighthead.

But certainly most eyes this evening will be on the Sharks’ new and exciting halfback pairing of Ruan Pienaar and Michalak.

Certainly Sharks supporters will be hoping that the Frenchman’s touch and deft passing will bring out the best in centres Brad Barritt and the forceful Waylon Murray.

Eloff,with a couple of worrying injuries, named what is effectively a B team for the game.

Captain Ernest Joubert, with a back injury, fellow-loose forward Willem Alberts, who has torn knee ligaments, and lock Anton van Zyl are sidelined because of injury.

Eloff said he was encouraged by the Lions’ display, even though they were beaten 28-14 by the Bulls last weekend.

“I’m very pleased with the way the match went. We only lost it in the last few minutes when I had all the reserves on.

“Against the Sharks the A squad will get only 20 minutes on the field towards the end. I’m giving the other guys a full run and a chance to show their form.”

Muir would expect this Sharks side, playing at home, to come away with a solid win.

But if his players can find some cohesion, exploit the new laws to their advantage and dodge any injury, he will not be too concerned about the scoreline.

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