It’s going to take a team effort

2008-10-21 00:00

A piece of paper with names on it will not win the title, Sharks captain Johann Muller said yesterday, as he looked ahead to Saturday’s Currie Cup final against the Blue Bulls at King’s Park.

The Sharks have a number of brilliant individual gamebreakers, but Muller said the outcome would be decided by a team effort.

“It’s great to have talented individuals, but you still have to go out and perform as a team,” he said.

But Muller admitted that having the World Cup-winning captain [John Smit] alongside him in the 22-player squad was a major boost.

Smit will play off the bench on Saturday with Bismarck du Plessis starting at hooker and Muller — as he has done all Currie Cup season — leading the side.

“Leadership is going to be a huge factor and I’m lucky to have the RWC-winning captain in the squad. You can’t ask for more than that.”

Muller admitted that the additional week off before the final had raised the excitement levels in the squad.

“You can see excitement and hunger in the players. Saturday must come now — it has been a long wait for us all.”

He said that the final would be “tough and physical.”

“It always is against the Bulls. We know each other so well and those opening five minutes are going to be ugly. We expect nothing less.”

Muller refused to build up his contest against Bulls captain and lock Victor Matfield.

“I wish an individual could make such a difference, but rugby is a team sport and you need 22 guys who are committed.

Neither Victor nor I will make that much difference to the outcome of the game on our own.”

The Sharks captain said he was not concerned about the long break (12 years) since the Sharks last won a trophy.

“It is a fact that we haven’t won for so long, but that’s all in the past. You can’t label us chokers. We have a new side and a new coach. Only Jannie [du Plessis], Stefan [Terblanche] and John [Smit] have played in Currie Cup finals in the entire group, so it’s a great challenge, but a new one.”

Muller pointed out that those who believed in omens would take strength from the presence, again, of a Frenchman in the side (Frederic Michalak on Saturday and Thierry Lacroix in 1996) and that there was a break of 12 years between the Boks winning the World Cup in 1995 and 2007.

Sharks coach John Plumtree said that the loss of Akona Ndungane was a blow for the Bulls, but they had a capable replacement in John Mametsa, who had shown good Currie Cup form.

Plumtree said there was no perfect recipe for winning a final.

“It’s all about the day and I’m just trying to prepare the side as best I know how.”

He said he was excited about the challenge and the anticipation in the Sharks squad.

“Obviously it would be good to dominate early on, but these two teams will dish it out for 80 minutes. It’s about the side that responds to pressure the best, and this kind of game is all about pressure; pressure that an individual can fall to pieces or not get it quite right.

“We got it a little wrong in the last minute in the 2007 final and in the game a few weeks ago against the Bulls they made mistakes.

“There will be patches of the game that go well and some that will not and it is how we respond, either by taking points or conceding them, that will be decisive.”

Plumtree said he had a full strength squad and he would name his team, as usual, tomorrow.

The final kicks off at 4.30 pm.

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