Bath release James as Saracens woo John Smit

2011-05-10 00:00

SHARKS players, past and present, were yesterday hogging the headlines with reports that Keegan Daniel, Butch James, John Smit and Ruan Pienaar are either coming or going.

Daniel was to face disciplinary action at King’s Park yesterday after he was cited for a dangerous tackle late in the weekend game against the Brumbies, but the hearing was postponed until this morning.

The Sharks, who are again concerned at the double standards in the citing process after Stormers prop CJ van der Linde escaped with what they regarded as dangerous play in the brutal game at Newlands the previous Saturday, believe that Daniel has been unfairly charged.

Across in New Zealand, Hurricanes scrumhalf Tyson Keats has been suspended for four weeks after a Sanzar judicial hearing found him guilty of dangerous play. He was cited for a tip tackle on Blues scrumhalf Alby Mathewson in a Super Rugby match in Wellington last Friday.

Former Sharks flyhalf Butch James, released early by Bath Rugby Club, will make his Lions debut against the Brumbies in Canberra this weekend.

James was only expected to play in the second game of the tour (against the Waratahs), but desperate coach John Mitchell says the Bok flyhalf will be rushed into the match day squad of Saturday. “Butch joins us [today] and we are looking forward to having a flyhalf calling the shots,” said Mitchell.

“His experience will be invaluable, but I’m not sure whether he will start or play off the bench against the Brumbies,” he added. “He will have two practices with the team and he’s experienced enough to pick up things quickly. It is a professional game and it is all about putting out your best players.”

While James is on his way back to South Africa, Springbok captain John Smit has plans to leave and join Saracens on a two-year contract after the Rugby World Cup.

Sharks CEO Brian van Zyl said yesterday that it is up to Smit and Saracens to confirm the move.

“I’m more concerned about the timing of a story involving our captain. We are more worried about the Super Rugby competition right now.”

The Sharks are certainly not expecting the 33-year-old Smit to continue his career in Durban next season.

“We have a contract with him until the end of this year,” said Van Zyl. “My understanding was that he was going to retire after the Rugby World Cup, but of course he may well now have other plans.”

The Sharks, with Bismarck du Plessis and Craig Burden champing at the bit, are well served in the hooking department.

London newspapers reported yesterday that Smit has already agreed to a two-year contract with Saracens. They apparently targeted Smit, who can also play prop, after Australian hooker Huia Edmonds could not join the club due to a shoulder injury.

Smit is expected to play a leadership role at the club and provide back-up to the overplayed current hooker, Schalk Britz.

Van Zyl said that he was surprised to see reports that former Sharks scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar, now playing for Ulster, is being tipped to join either the Bulls or the Stormers later this month. “I’m surprised because Ruan is keen to play for the Sharks again when he does return to South Africa,” he told The Witness.

“He has told us he wants to rejoin the Sharks when his contract with Ulster ends in June next year.”

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