Michalak on a learning curve

2007-11-27 00:00

Frédéric Michalak, the 25-year-old French Test flyhalf, has been in Durban for a fortnight and on and off the field he has been on a sharp learning curve.

The shy, quietly-spoken Frenchman addressed his first media conference at King’s Park yesterday and, speaking through an interpreter, said he is looking forward to the challenge of playing Super 14 rugby for the Sharks.

Not only is he leaning to speak English — “when you listen, you learn a lot” — but he is already finding that rugby in South Africa is far tougher than at home in France.

“Here you train for much longer. At home we practise for a month before the season, but here the training is longer and harder.”

Sharks coach Dick Muir said that Michalak has been quick to accept the challenge.

“The day after our first session he could hardly walk he was so stiff. But he has jumped in boots and all and the players have been impressed with his approach and attitude.

“We are honoured to have a player of his reputation and standing here.”

Michalak said he is settling in quickly.

“Everyone has been friendly and accommodating.”

The skilful flyhalf, on as a second-half replacement, fashioned the crucial try for France that saw the All Blacks bounced out of the RWC in the quarters.

But he has been publicly criticical of France’s World Cup coach Bernard Laporte — “he is a coach not a friend” — for ignoring the traditional attacking flair of the Tricolors.

“I wanted to play in the Super 14 because that is the rugby I enjoy, running with the ball. I think that will suit me. Nowhere in Europe can you play this kind of rugby.”

He said he is also looking forward to playing alongside the Sharks’ World Cup-winning Springboks like Ruan Pienaar, Frans Steyn and JP Pietersen.

“I have been following their careers and it will help us here to have such versatile players.”

Michalak has signed for the Super 14 season with an option to stay on for the 2008 Currie Cup season if it suits both him and the Sharks, said commercial manger Rudolf Straeuli.

But Michalak ruled out any possibility of playing Six Nations rugby for France during the European winter.

“They won’t choose me if I don’t play locally,” he added.

Muir is convinced that Michalak will prove a “major asset” for the Sharks.

“One of the reasons we got him is because the best way to coach a young player is for him to play alongside someone with experience, like Michalak.

“In that way he will be like [former All Black] Tony Brown who helped so many of our young players.”

Muir said that the Sharks will miss the experience they have lost with senior Springboks like Percy Montgomery, John Smit and Butch James moving overseas.

“It will impact on our rugby and we may not be as consistent as we were last season. But we will be more exciting,” he said.

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