Bruised Sharks show renewed commitment

2008-04-28 00:00

The Sharks are nursing a few injuries ahead of the Crusaders match on Friday evening, but the good news is that captain Johann Muller has declared himself fit to lead the side, after missing the Sharks’

25-10 loss to the Waratahs with a slight tear in his calf.

As usual, there were a few bumps and bruises going into a new week, but there is also a renewed commitment to the Sharks’ cause, which until two weeks ago was looking steady and positive, but right now is floundering in turbulent seas following consecutive losses to the Brumbies and now the Waratahs after an eight-match unbeaten stretch.

The loss of Frederic Michalak certainly has not helped, but coach Dick Muir can pick any one of François Steyn, Bradley Barritt, Ruan Pienaar or Adi Jacobs to play at flyhalf.

But it’s not so much the loss of personnel that is concerning the Sharks, but rather the need to improve in certain areas before taking on the log-leaders. One is making sure that the Sharks get quality ball, the other is doing something constructive with it.

Assistant coach John Plumtree gave the thumbs-up to the set pieces.

"Lineouts were always going to be a concern for us [against the Waratahs] without Johann and the fact that they have some big jumpers. But I thought we did very well in that area on Saturday.

"The possession presented from scrums and lineouts wasn’t too bad, but we kept turning over ball at phase time and that placed us under stress. We kicked when we shouldn’t have and then didn’t when we should have," said Plumtree of the Sharks’ decision-making.

Throughout the season, the Sharks have defended well and relied on that defence to earn the result. But Plumtree feels that it’s starting to take its toll.

"We’re a side looking like we are getting more and more tired because of the fact that we are having to defend so much. "We can’t afford to give away too much possession or we are going to end up doing a lot of tackling."

Waratahs’ captain Phil Waugh paid tribute to a "good" Sharks side.

"The Sharks are quality opposition, they made us work very hard, but there are special moments that turn a game and there was some good vision by our individuals and everyone stuck to the task."

The Waratahs felt they had an ordinary first half and Waugh explained that: "It’s about 80 minutes, not 40. We’re not playing perfect football, but to come home strongly is pleasing."

Coach Ewen McKenzie admitted that it was one of the big games of the season for the Waratahs.

Friday morning’s match kicks off at 9.35 am (SA time).

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