Ackermann back for Sharks

2008-05-07 00:00

JOHAN Ackermann, the 38-year-old Springbok lock who was pensioned off by the Sharks at the beginning of March, has been recalled to the squad for Saturday’s Super 14 game against the Cheetahs in Durban.

Sharks coach Dick Muir said yesterday that the veteran forward, who played his last Super 14 game against the Bulls at Loftus on March 1, would join the squad as back-up for captain Johann Muller.

Muller aggravated a calf muscle injury against the Crusaders and limped off the field and says his chances of playing on Saturday are “slim”.

Muir named a squad of 25 to cover for the fitness doubts over Muller, centre Brad Barritt and hooker Bismarck du Plessis.

The Sharks coach said that if Muller is passed fit, Ackermann may not be used.

“If Johann stands down, and there is an 80% chance he will, then Ackermann will come in to provide us with experience.”

Muir said Ackermann could be used at any stage before the end of the Super 14.

Muir said he was confident that lock Steven Sykes, who returned home early from Australia with an ankle injury, would be ready.

Maximum points from the Cheetahs game are crucial, he said.

“The log standings show just what a great competition this is. Nine teams are still in a position where they could make the semis.

“It could be a repeat of two years ago when it came down to points difference.”

The Cheetahs may be well down the log, but Muir is not expecting them to do the Sharks any favours on Saturday.

“It will be a typical tough South African derby. We have everything to lose and Cheetahs have very little. But we’re going out to play and we will have to play well. It’s a game to look forward to with some real talent on display.”

The Sharks, he said, improved markedly against the Crusaders after losing to the Waratahs.

“We now have to build on that and improve our phase play as well as our level of ball retention on Saturday.”

Muir praised the efforts of Bok scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar who has taken over from Frederic Michalak at flyhalf: “He has proved what a versatile talent he is. He’s fitting into the flyhalf role very well and that is a positive, not only for the Sharks but also from SA rugby’s perspective.

Ruan has a massive amount of balance and feel for the game.”

But he conceded that the inability of the Sharks to score tries remains an on-going concern.

“We have shuffled the backline, but that’s no excuse. We have to go out and fire against the Cheetahs.”

Saturday’s match kicks off at 3 pm and the Sharks need to pick up full points to stay in the hunt for a semi-final position.

Sharks squad

Forwards: Beast Mtawarira, Deon Carstens, Craig Burden, Bismarck du Plessis, BJ Botha, Jannie du Plessis, Johann Muller, Albert van den Berg, Steven Sykes, Johan Ackermann, Jacques Botes, Keegan Daniel, AJ Venter, Jean Deysel, Ryan Kankowski

Backs: Rory Kockott, Ruan Pienaar, JP Pietersen, Waylon Murray, Bradley Barritt, Adi Jacobs, Francois Steyn, Odwa Ndungane, Henno Mentz, Stefan Terblanche.

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