Sharks skipper eyes Currie Cup

2009-06-06 00:00

Johann Muller, after choking down the disappointment of being omitted from the 28-man Springbok squad to face the British Lions in a three-Test series, is looking forward to leading the Sharks against the tourists at King’s Park on Wednesday night.

The Sharks captain and lock has 22 Test caps, but he admits that the Lions series “is the big one, the one I really wanted”.

“Once you have tasted Test rugby, you want to play every time, but obviously the desire is greater when the British Lions are touring,” he told Weekend Witness.

“They only tour here every 12 years and obviously the chance to play them comes just once, so it was tough to be left out.”

Muller has fierce competition in the second row, with the world’s top lock pairing of Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha a shoo-in with the towering Andries Bekker and Bulls utility forward Danie Rossouw providing back-up.

But Muller’s consistency and honest endeavour in the Super 14 this year took him close to selection, as Bok coach Peter de Villiers pointed out when he named the Bok squad.

“Hearing how close I was made it even more disappointing,” said the genial Muller, who took over the Sharks captaincy from John Smit, away playing in France last year.

Muller led the Sharks to the Super 14 semi-final in 2008 and then the Currie Cup title, and he was retained as captain this year even with Smit back in the squad.

The two-metre-tall lock said he is now concentrating on bouncing back from the Springbok setback.

“It is a long season and I must make sure I’m ready if the call [from the Bok selectors] does come.”

For the moment, Muller is concentrating on the Sharks game against the British Lions at King’s Park on Wednesday night (7.10 pm).

He was just six months old when the British Lions last played the Sharks (then Natal) in Durban in 1980 — Wynand Claassen’s Natal were level 15-15, but lost to a try by the Lions in injury time — and he is excited about playing in such a high-profile game.

“We will be without our Springboks, but we have a lot of exciting talent and this game gives us all a wonderful opportunity to show we can play at international level.”

Muller said the Sharks who will play against the Lions will mostly be the ones who will carry the team throughout most of the Currie Cup.

“We need to start the Currie Cup well and get our confidence back up after the disappointing end to the Super 14.”

He said he has been highly impressed by the Bulls’ Super 14 win.

“They were superb and they again lifted their rugby a couple of levels when it counted. Now we are faced with the challenge of matching them in the Currie Cup.”

He said he is confident the Springboks have the players to beat the Lions. “On paper, we are better than them, but we also thought that in 1997 and we ended up losing.

It will be tough and close in the Tests, but we will win if we take our chances.”

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