English flyhalf joins the frey

2010-02-23 00:00

THE Sharks have arrived in Christ­church and yesterday had their first training session on New Zealand soil ahead of Friday’s Super 14 outing against the Crusaders.

The Sharks, stung by two successive defeats and a hail of criticism, left Durban on Saturday night on their five-match tour of Australasia. They have been joined in Christchurch by England flyhalf Andy Goode, their la­test signing, who is expected to be involved against the Crusaders.

The contracting of the 29-year-old Goode has been condemned by, amongst others, former Natal and Springbok flyhalf Joel Stransky, who said it was an act of desperation by the Sharks.

Stransky said there were a number of good young local flyhalves who should have been used ahead of Goode.

Sharks commercial manager Rudolf Straeuli said yesterday that he could understand the frustration and negative response to the Sharks’ performances.

“We are not playing well and it has been disappointing. But the loss of two flyhalves, first Juan Hernandez and then Steve Meyer, came completely out of the blue and we had to have some experienced cover and back-up in that position.

“Plum [head coach John Plumtree] is understandably reluctant to blood young players at this level. We have a succession plan in place with our Academy and our Sharks’ Vodacom Cup team, but you cannot just throw young players in at this level.”

Straeuli said that young fly half Guy Cronje, who was used in the Currie Cup last year, was still on an extended break and the injury to lock Gerhard Moster is also a long-term one, forcing the Sharks to bring in Wilhelm Steenkamp from the Bulls to provide second-row cover.

“The youngsters will come through,” said Straeuli, “and on Friday night our Vodacom Cup side beat the Cheetahs 27-0 in the curtain-rai­ser to show that the talent is there. But we have to nurture it.”

Meanwhile, the Crusaders could rush back All Black captain and flank Richie McCaw for the outing against the Sharks. The seven-time champions were badly beaten 41-20 by the Reds in Brisbane at the weekend and coach Todd Blackadder, blaming a lack of discipline for the defeat, says McCaw, who was to return on March 6, is likely to play off the bench.

“Part of the plan is that he will be available for the bench,” Blackadder told reporters. “He’s definitely keen to come back … he’s breaking down the door to play.

“He’s been to every training run, getting right amongst it. We just didn’t want to throw him to the wolves too early.”

Blackadder said he would not be panicked into changing the team.

“It was just one of those nights when nothing went right. I thought from the start that our discipline was poor, then, defensively, we missed too many tackles and the Reds were certainly making some really good linebreaks. We were just not there mentally,” Blackadder added.

Crusaders and All Black fly half Dan Carter said that basic errors had cost the team.

“There’s no way you can get your game going when you’re dropping the ball and making so many errors. It was extremely frustrating,” said Car­ter, adding that the team’s pride had been badly dented.

“We’re an extremely proud side and have really high standards which we didn’t meet at the weekend,” he added.

Carter said that leaders in the team — “and I’m one” — had to stand up against the Sharks.

The Sharks have suffered two successive losses to the Chiefs and Cheetahs, but Carter believes this will make them even more dangerous.

“They’re a quality side as they’ve shown in the Super 14 in the last couple of seasons … for them to start with two losses means they’ll have their backs against the wall and be determined to change that this weekend.”

Friday’s match kicks off at 8.35 am (SA time).

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