Jake’s hot 10-12 plan

2014-01-18 00:00

SHARKS supporters will see a changed and motivated Frans Steyn during this year’s Super Rugby campaign.

That is the confident prediction of coach Jake White, who this week said that inside centre Steyn and flyhalf Pat Lambie would blossom playing alongside each other and they would form the hub of the Sharks backline.

White described Steyn “as a prodigy” and said the powerfully-built player, who is only 26, would be more settled and driven this year.

“Since he was a schoolboy at Grey College, I have known what makes Frans tick and how he thinks.”

White coached the 2007 Springboks to their Rugby World Cup triumph in Paris and Steyn, aged 20, was at inside centre and became the youngest player to earn a gold medal.

“His whole life has changed,” said White. “Frans is married, he now has a child and his value system has changed. I’m sure that all this will have an impact on the way he plays and prepares for games.

“Last year he went through three coaches before the year ended. He likes stability, he likes to be guided without force.

“He is a prodigy, a sensational player, a freak. He was spoken about as the guy who could change rugby. That’s what’s so exciting.”

White said that he was delighted to be back with Steyn and able to sit down with him and discuss his future.

“I’ve told him I really need him to show everyone what I think he can do. That’s important, because when he’s next to Pat, you will see a much better Lambie with Frans taking control of things he can.

“Frans is still a work in progress. He came back here and had a knee op, so he’s not 100% yet, but everyone knows what his 80% is and that’s better than most people when they’re at their best. We just need to keep pushing him.”

White said he wanted to play Steyn at inside centre and alongside flyhalf Lambie.

“It gives Pat a massive amount of confidence having Frans play beside him. He gives Pat exactly what he needs to become a very good flyhalf. I’m not saying Frans won’t play anywhere else, but we will do what’s important for the Sharks.”

White said the Sharks, as a group, had a responsibility to their supporters and shareholders.

“There are expectations and we need to be true to them. We have a philosophy about how we want to play. If that means that Lambie and Steyn play next to each other for the whole season, then we will make them the best 10-12 combination in Super Rugby.”

While White is excited about his midfield potential, he is preparing to start the Super Rugby campaign without JP Pietersen, his world-class Springbok wing.

Pietersen and number eight Ryan Kankowski are playing for clubs in Japan and the Sharks were hoping to have both back and available for the Super Rugby opener against the Bulls in Durban on February 15.

“I speak to Ryan [Kankowski] weekly,” said White. “He is playing in the Japanese championship and they then go into the knock-out cup. The best case scenario is that we will get Ryan back at the beginning of February, otherwise in the week of the Bulls game, which isn’t ideal.

“JP’s team [Panasonic] are doing well and this may delay his return until after Super Rugby has started. But at least when they return we have him until the end of the campaign.”

White said that fullback SP Marais, lock Anton Bresler and flank Jacques Botes were back in training but not yet ready for full contact.

“As I speak we have 37 out of a squad of 40 players fit and available for selection for the first game, which is obviously fantastic.”

He said he had a number of options to replace the injured Marais but said he was keen to try the 20-year-old Tyler Fisher at fullback. The 100kg Fisher, a Westville High product, played at centre for the Sharks’ Vodacom Cup side last year.

“There is also nothing stopping us from picking Odwa Ndungane or Jaco van Tonder at fullback for the Saracens game.

“I’m fully confident in the squad we have,” said White.

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