Frederic Michalak a natural fit — Cowley

2008-10-22 00:00

Cape Town — As he prepares for his first Currie Cup final, Frederic Michalak’s influence in the Sharks’ “bigger picture” should not be under-estimated.

So says long-time television commentator and former Junior Springbok and Eastern Province flyhalf Gavin Cowley, describing Saturday’s match against the Blue Bulls in Durban as the French playmaker’s “51st Test in many respects”.

The 26-year-old Toulouse-born pin-up boasts precisely 50 caps for his country, having debuted against South Africa in 2001.

Asked how he rated Michalak’s maiden season in the Sharks fold overall, educated neutral Cowley said: “He’s a classic case of one of those players you associate with bigger-picture matters”.

“They brought him in for a reason, and that reason wasn’t solely linked to how often he booted the ball 60 yards downfield or how many points he put on the scoreboard for them.

“It was about blending his undoubted experience — and you can’t even brand him old, anyway — with the high volume of youthfulness around him in the Sharks backline: I think he and Stefan Terblanche have been crucial balancers and steadying influences for the team all season.

“You have to assess off-field value to a large degree, and I suspect he has something in common with AJ Venter in that regard. When AJ moved south from Durban many among the Western Province public questioned the motive for signing him, but perhaps without contemplating his general value to the dressing room.

“I know there can be communication issues when you put a French player in an English-language environment, but from everything I hear Michalak’s been a really good team guy.”

Cowley said he felt Michalak had been “a natural fit” in the Sharks set-up. “They do play width rugby and he suits their play well with his French ‘feel’ for the game. The only arrogance you see from him, if you like, is in his impulsive style of play and that is not a [weakness].”

The SuperSport commentator suspects the Bulls will try to ruffle Michalak a little in the final.

“Inevitably in terms of disruption you target nine and 10; attempt to cut the flyhalf off. That said, I think the Bulls may give the ball some width themselves, knowing that the Sharks offer good counter-strength to them up front.”

Turning to Michalak’s opposite number, the Bulls’ Morné Steyn, Cowley says he is among those who once considered him a tad predictable.

“Yes, I used to think that, but he’s graduated out of the one-dimensional club. He is such a confident kicker at present and he’s become one of the most accurate distributors on the Currie Cup scene, too.

“I reckon he finally feels the position is his own and that’s so important for a flyhalf to know. He is also fortunate to have Fourie du Preez inside him, a master at taking some of the pressure away when it’s necessary.”

— News24.

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