Muir happy with Sharks’ progress

2008-02-07 00:00

The Sharks won comfortably against the Lions in their warm up rugby match before 7 000 spectators at the Absa Stadium in Durban last night with a 33-5 scoreline. That was made up by tries to Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira (2), Ryan Kankowski, Henno Mentz and Albert van den Bergh. Four were converted by Ruan Pienaar.

But there remains a lot of work to be done over the next eight days to get them mentally prepared and game perfect for the opening Super 14 match against Western Force in Durban next Friday.

There were too many mistakes and these will be subject to extensive work on the practice field as Dick Muir and company try to re-establish the smooth free-flowing confidence of last season.

To be fair, the Sharks looked more confident and skilled in the second session and there were encouraging signs ahead of the tough games ahead.

Coach Dick Muir conceded that there had been too many mistakes, but he is confident that the Sharks were on the right track, especially as they began to dictate the game in the latter stages. He didn’t like the ill discipline in the first half — apart from the Jannie du Plessis dismissal to a red, there were two yellow cards flashed at his men.

“Yes, I am happy with where we are in our preparations for the match against the Force. You do not want to peak too early in such a tough tournament. But you don’t want to go in under-prepared either.”

He was happy with the scrum work, but said the lineouts were still a little dodgy. Muir said it was difficult to do a true assessment as there was no flow in the early stages, but once the team had settled down the signs were encouraging and the players were coming into their own. “They will get better and better,” he said. “I was happy with the way they pulled it together.”

There were a couple of minor injuries. JP had a knock on his ankle, Francois Steyn was also kept sidelined as a precaution because of an ankle twinge. BJ Botha has a groin problem and former French flyhalf Fred Michalak, who played well enough in adapting to the Sharks style, also had a bit of a calf niggle.

For the home crowd there was an early disappointment when star Francois Steyn was ruled out and his replacement at fullback JP Pietersen only lasted for about a quarter of an hour before leaving the field.

The Sharks also suffered a red card dismissal of prop Jannie du Plessis in the first half.

Cheetahs import prop in the Sharks side Jannie du Plessis was handed a red card by referee Craig Joubert after he had consulted his touch judge assistants for a couple of minutes. But he did not mete out the same punishment to Franco van der Merwe after a second incident in which the Lions man was cautioned but not carded.

BJ Botha then made a welcome return from injury as a replacement for Du Plessis in terms of the pre-match arrangement that kept the sides at full strength.

The Lions opted not to kick their first penalty opportunity that would have surely have secured a definitive three points.

The Sharks were switching their pack about with Craig Burden moving in as hooker mid-way through the half with Bismarck du Plessis on after half-time.

As a precaution JP Peterson left the field with a strain to be replaced by Adrian Jacobs for the Sharks. The Lions also had an injury problem replacement.

Finally after 25 minutes Ryan Kankowski broke the deadlock with a try in the corner and Ruan Pienaar converted brilliantly (7-0).

Just on the break the crowd of 7 000 saw crowd favourite prop Beast Mtawarira over in the same corner. Early in the second half the Lions threatened through Earl Rose but the Sharks defence held firm.

However it was the Sharks who looked to have gained more momentum as the game wound down to its conclusion.

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