While Sharks gear up for next round, Steyn flits to France

2009-04-26 00:00

IF you can ignore for a moment the fact that Springbok utility back Frans Steyn has flitted off to France to chase down a future career in Europe, it has been a profitable week for the Sharks in the Super 14.

Steyn, the precociously-talented Sharks midfield back, was in Paris early last week not to sample French cuisine, or stroll along the left bank of the Seine with his agent and Durban lawyer Gerrie Swart, but to continue his flirtation with Racing Metro Rugby Club.

It is believed that the judicial hearing into the citings of Keegan Daniel and Jannie du Plessis were last week postponed until Thursday to allow Swart, the agent, to return from his Paris trip to don his lawyer’s cap and (successfully) defend the two Sharks players.

The Sharks are desperately hoping to keep Steyn in Durban but they cannot match the contract worth millions of rands a season (600 000 euros) being thrown at the 21-year-old by a club on the brink of promotion to the French first division next season.

Swart, with good reason, has denied French reports that his player has already signed for Racing Metro. Steyn remains under contract to the Sharks until the end of December and Durban officials, surely along with the coaches and players, are understandably annoyed that one of their key players is dealing with another club while under contract and while they are trying to win the Super 14 competition.

Certainly coach John Plumtree would not have had a two-day trip to Paris in mind when he gave his players a week off to ready themselves for the intense final weeks of the Super 14.

What is certain is that Steyn’s determination to leave South Africa will have done nothing for his chances of playing against the touring British Lions in June and July. Peter de Villiers, the Bok coach, has made it clear that his loyalty lies with players in this country and it is believed that Steyn may have already burned his bridges.

Closer to home, the weekend Super 14 results were largely in the Sharks’ favour. The Bulls’ strong second-half at Loftus brought down the log-leading Chiefs 33-27 and ended their six-match winning streak; the basement-dwelling Cheetahs pulled off another major shock when they beat the champion Crusaders 20-13 in Bloemfontein and the Reds travelled to North Harbour and upset the Blues, who are top four contenders, 31-24. The Force blew away the Lions 55-14 but the Perth franchise, like the Crusaders, now appear out of semi-final contention.

The Stormers probably surprised themselves in beating the Highlanders 18-11 in New Zealand but the one result that did not work in the Sharks’ favour was the Hurricanes’ 56-7 thumping of the Brumbies which takes them top of the log.

The weekend results left the Sharks in fourth spot but kept them ahead of the Blues and in touch with the Chiefs and Bulls. They also complete their round robin season with home games against the Highlanders, Waratahs and Bulls over the next three weekends. They should also be refreshed after their weekend bye and at full strength.

Precious little separates the top five teams — Hurricanes (34), Bulls (33), Chiefs (32), Sharks (31) and Blues (30) — and bonus points and wins are critical over the next three rounds.

The top two places could well be decided by the very last league game, the Sharks’ home clash with the Bulls (May 16), and the Chiefs-Hurricanes derby in Hamilton on May 9.

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