Exciting' Michalak will add bite to Sharks

2007-11-22 00:00

FRENCH Test flyhalf Frédéric Michalak will add a spicy cocktail of flair and unpredictability to Sharks rugby for next season's Super 14 competition.

The 25-year-old Toulouse flyhalf, capped 50 times for France, is the Sharks' major new signing for next season and this week he joined the young, enthusiastic squad at King's Park as they started their preparations for the Super 14 season.

Sharks coach Dick Muir said yesterday that Michalak, who started his Test career as a scrumhalf, will add to the versatility of the Sharks backline.

“And that's the way rugby is going, with players able to slot in anywhere in the backline as more and more phases are won.”

The Sharks are particularly strong in that area, with Ruan Pienaar and Frans Steyn - at Test level - seeing action in four different positions, while JP Pietersen, Stefan Terblanche, Odwa Ndungane, Waylon Murray, Brad Barritt and Adrian Jacobs able to play in at least two.

“Exciting” is Muir's new buzzword and it laces his conversation as he looks ahead to the 2008 season.

The new Super 14 season is “exciting”, the Sharks have “exciting” young players who will play “exciting” rugby and the King's Park crowds can look forward to the most “exciting” season. And, of course, Michalak is the most “exciting” of players.

“His English is not great, but he will learn and he is friendly and humble. But when he has the ball in hand, anything can happen.”

Michalak, who wanted to come to Durban to experience Super 14 rugby - and run with the ball rather than kick it - will have players like Steyn, Jacobs, Pietersen and Murray outside him. Predictability will not be part of the Sharks' game.

Muir agrees.

“We will run and run. We have lost a massive amount of experience with the departure of John Smit, Percy Montgomery, Butch James, Gcobani Bobo, Bob Skinstad, Warren Britz and Johan Ackermann, but we can replace it with a huge amount of exciting talent.”

Muir's problem will be weaving the various talents into the backline.

Where does Frans Steyn, a World Cup-winning centre, but a flyhalf, wing and fullback for the Sharks, now fit into Muir's plans?

“It will be horses for courses selection. At various stages in the Super 14 Frans will play 10, 12 or 15. Ruan Pienaar can also move around and I see he is now at fullback for the Boks. But we know where he wants to play [scrumhalf].”

But Muir is not all smiles and optimism.

“It will be a tough season. Previously we were just one of the Super 14 sides, but now, as finalists, we will be one of the teams to beat. We know how we get up for the Crusaders game every year and that is what we will face week after week.”

Muir is also miffed about the current Bok tour of the UK.

“It's a shambles having a tour now. The Australians and New Zealanders are all going through their conditioning preparations for the new season, but half our Sharks squad is away playing Test rugby. Crazy.”

Those players still in Durban will attend training until December 21 and then break until January 3, when the Springboks will join them after a month's break.

Muir said that the Sharks' pre-season friendlies will be against the Chee

tahs in Bloemfontein on February 1 and the Lions in Durban on February 6 before the start of the Super 14 in mid-February.

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