‘A massive milestone for me’

2014-04-23 00:00

KEEGAN Daniel will be the next Shark to make his 100th appearance for the franchise when the men in black and white take on the Highlanders at King’s Park this Friday.

The former skipper started the Sharks’ last game, and coach Jake White could be tempted to retain him in the starting 15 this weekend in what will be their last home fixture for a month.

Speaking to journalists yesterday, the Old Dalian said achieving 100 Super Rugby games was something he aimed for at the beginning of his career eight years ago.

Along the way, Daniel has also picked up five Test caps for the Springboks, and captained the Sharks to victory in the Currie Cup last year.

“It was looking a little bit unlikely at the beginning of the year with the injuries that I had and the way things were going. Personally, it’s a massive milestone for me, but I’ve always said that the team come first. I will tick in that box of the goals I set for myself many years ago,” said Daniel.

Daniel’s comeback this season began in the Vodacom Cup where he played a number of games before being drafted into White’s Super Rugby squad for the game against the Waratahs where he came off the bench and scored a try.

He was on the bench again for the game against the Lions, and eventually made the run on 15 against the Cheetahs in Durban last week where he played at the back of the scrum in Ryan Kankowski’s place in a rotational switch.

“There’s been a steady increase in the amount of game time I’ve been getting. I played a couple of games in the Vodacom Cup, which allowed me to get a bit of mileage on my legs, which is good. The injury’s good. Everything seems to have healed up and I’m feeling strong,” he said of the shoulder injury he picked up in pre-season.

According to Daniel, the season has gone to plan perfectly as the Sharks currently sit at the top of the Super Rugby table with a six-point lead over the second placed Brumbies.

The run, which has seen the Sharks win seven of their first eight games, has been helped by a strong start they had at home.

“Every team’s goal is to win the competition. It certainly was ours. We had a really good start and we’re still trying to find our feet in the way Jake wants us to play … in the sixth or seventh game we suffered a few injuries in a few key areas, but I think guys have put their hands up and stepped in.

“At the moment we’re looking good. We’ve won ugly when we had to and things didn’t go our way and that’s a sign of a good team. You struggle but still manage to pull off wins. This past weekend is a prime example of that,” said the former captain.

The Sharks face the Highlanders this week, and like all teams from New Zealand, Daniel was aware that the men from Otago had the players to carve them up if they left their structures too open.

“If our lines aren’t right, or if we kick poorly or we turn ball over, that’s where they’re going to be the most dangerous. So I think we’re going to have to be a little conservative in the way we play and definitely tidy up the amount of turnover ball we had in the areas that we did when we had possession in the first half against the Cheetahs.”

The Highlanders, who have had a mixed bag of results but have won their last two matches, currently find themselves sitting eighth on the Super Rugby table, and fourth in the New Zealand Conference.

Although they’re second from bottom in New Zealand, they are still above the Bulls, who are second in the South African Conference.

White will this morning announce the team to take on the Highlanders in Friday’s game, which kicks off at 7.10 pm.

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