Michalak enjoys the Sharks experience

2008-03-28 00:00

IT has been a time of learning and experimentation for Frederic Michalak, the French flyhalf, both on and off the field.

The 25-year-old French international with 50 Test caps took a dip in salary to leave Toulouse and play his rugby in Durban, but he is happy with his decision.

Sharks coach Dick Muir is playing him the bench today, but not because he does not rate the Frenchman.

“He is the complete flyhalf,” said Muir. “He can run, he can pass, he can kick and he can tackle. But it is a long season and we are going to need him on our tour.”

Muir is delighted with Michalak’s progress.“He has adapted to the way we play and we are adapting to him.”

Michalak now often takes the ball closer to the gainline than was the case when he first arrived, though he still enjoys playing the ball into space and away from the heavy traffic.

“It’s nice to be here,” Michalak told the Sharks website. “There are world champion players here and it’s good for me to play with them.

“We have won the games, but it’s not finished yet. We still need to go to New Zealand and Australia and it will be more difficult for us away from Durban.”

The chance to play with a leading Super 14 franchise was one of the attractions, he says.

“There is a whole lot of talent in this team, but very young. The Sharks have a big pack and that means we will be a better team overall because the lineouts and scrums are very good.”

He is also impressed with the quality and the pace of Super 14 rugby.

“It is something else. It is not like Heineken Cup or the French Championship, it is like playing Test matches with the French international team against South Africa, Australia or New Zealand. All the best players are in the Super 14, it is as physical as a Test match and all the games are played at pace.”

He is convinced the experience will help his development as a player.

“It’s like playing in the World Cup. Every week is another tough, difficult game and I like this competition.”

Michalak, a part-time model, enjoys Beckham-like status in his home country and a stream of reporters and photographers have travelled from France to cover his days in Durban.

His English has improved markedly since his arrival.

“All the players are very friendly, we have a good coach and it’s like a big family at the Sharks. I’m very happy here,” Michalak said.

Muir, explaining away Michalak’s new peroxided hairstyle, said that the flyhalf had “obviously lost a bet”.

No, no, says Michalak, it was a challenge to French team-mate Yannick Nyanga.

“Maybe he does the same, maybe he doesn’t.”

Muir, for the moment, has the physically powerful, confrontational Francois Steyn at flyhalf with Michalak, skillful and creative, on the bench providing a vivid contrast in playing styles.

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