Sharks call up lanky lock

2010-03-09 00:00

ALISTAIR Hargreaves, the lanky lock who toured Europe with the Springboks late last year, is on his way to join the Sharks in Australia.

The 23-year-old Hargreaves, who showed encouraging form for the Sharks XV against Western Province in the Vodacom Cup match at Newlands on Saturday, will provide back-up for Johann Muller and Steven Sykes, who are both experiencing fitness problems.

Muller is battling to shake a virus he picked up in Sydney last week, while Sykes took a knock against the Waratahs on Saturday.

Both are expected to be fit to face the Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday, but the 2,01 m tall Hargreaves and Wilhelm Steenkamp, on loan from the Bulls, will provide cover.

The Sharks travelled to Australia with 25 of the allowed 26 players and Hargreaves, a former South African age-group captain, will complete the squad. He left Durban last night and will join the Sharks at their Sydney base later today.

Sharks captain John Smit is urging his players to look to the future and not to what happened in Sydney on Saturday, as they prepare for the Brumbies in Canberra.

The Brumbies are convinced that the controversial 25-21 weekend defeat to the Waratahs will fire up the Sharks even more for Saturday’s game.

Smit said it would be easy for the Sharks team to look elsewhere and blame the referee and a series of contentious rulings for their fourth successive defeat.

“But, if we keep looking at those [other people’s mistakes] for answers, we won’t go forward as a team,” said the Sharks front-row forward. The Sharks, he added, should have beaten the Waratahs, but they did not take their chances and now have to work on their own mistakes in attempting to keep their season alive.

Brumbies coach Andy Friend, who travelled to the Sydney Football Stadium to watch the match, said he had been impressed with the Sharks.

“They were full of energy and desire. They will be disappointed with the result and the late rulings which went against them. They will come down to Canberra more fired up than they would have been,” he said.

“The Sharks will be fighting for survival and they will be hard to beat,” said Friend.

The Brumbies, who were expected to beat the Lions by a massive margin on Friday, struggled in the wet conditions and against spirited opposition before coming away with a 24-13 win.

Friend said a repeat of that form will not be good enough to beat the Sharks, adding that his players were frustrated and disappointed with their showing against the Lions.

“We created so many chances, but we weren’t clinical enough to execute. The Lions’ defence was pretty damned good. It forced us into errors. We need to be better.

“I’m happy with the opportunities we are creating. We have to be more clinical in finishing off.

“We’ve won three of four. I’m not unhappy. I just know that if we are to achieve, we need to get better.”

History, again, will be in favour of the Australian team. The Brumbies have won 33 of their 35 home games against South African teams.

Ian McIntosh’s Natal side of 1998 was one of the two winning sides in Canberra.

The Brumbies, encouraged by their scrummaging against the Lions, believe that the battle of the set pieces will be decisive.

Former Wallaby lock Justin Harrison, who has played in South Africa and rejoined the Brumbies this year, believes that the scrum will be key on Saturday.

“South African teams have a strong emphasis on the set piece,” Harrison told reporters yesterday.

“They use the scrum and lineout as platforms to launch their attack. If you can unsettle them in that area, you can go a long way to shutting down their strike players.

“The scrum is an area we have targeted for ourselves to improve, and we have. We maintained consistent pressure against the Lions.”

Harrison said the Sharks are an intimidating side, “and very physical”.

“The set piece is a strong point for the Sharks, who have copped a lot of flak this season.”

Harrison talked up the Sharks side, which will come as some surprise to Sharks supporters. “The Sharks are not underperforming. They have been unlucky not to secure wins. They will feel they were hard done by in Sydney,” said Harrison.

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