Muller joins Bok side as the Sharks do some soul-searching

2009-09-02 00:00

LOCK and captain Johann Muller has left to join the Springboks and will miss the Sharks’ next two Currie Cup games against Boland in Wellington on Friday and the trip to Pretoria to face the Blue Bulls the following weekend.

Muller has flown to Brisbane to join the Boks after injured lock Andries Bekker (shoulder) returned home and doubts emerged over the fitness of Bakkies Botha.

Sharks wing JP Pietersen (hamstring) has also left the Boks, but he will not be replaced.

Muller, capped 23 times, last played for the Boks in the third Test against the British Lions in July.

“We are looking forward to Johann joining the squad,” Bok coach Peter de Villiers said yesterday. “He is an experienced campaigner and has served the Springboks well in the past.”

Sharks assistant coach Grant Bashford said the selection is a deserved honour for Muller.

“There have been disappointments in the past for him; they know what they will get out of him. He is a hard worker, a leader and going into a confident Bok side will be easier for him.”

Bashford said the Sharks are fortunate to have an excellent caretaker captain in Stefan Terblanche and an experienced replacement lock in Albert van den Berg.

“We are certainly comfortable with our replacements.”

The Sharks have also been boosted by the imminent return to full fitness of lock Alistair Hargreaves after an extended injury break.

Bashford said there had been “some harsh words and harsh video sessions” following the weekend’s Currie Cup loss at home to Western Province.

“This does happen in rugby. It’s not a calamity and we are still second after the Lions did us a favour by beating the Blue Bulls.

“We were disappointed in the number of unforced errors. Rory Kockott (scrumhalf), Juan Hernandez (flyhalf) and Riaan Swanepoel (inside) were coming off long lay-offs and there was some rustiness, but we know where we went wrong. We must now fix it and the players know that they can improve.”

Bashford said that Province also deserves credit for their superb defensive structure.

“They were pretty much a Super 14 side and they showed it by putting us under pressure.”

He said there would be no complacency against Boland.

“They have been walloped away, but they have done well at home where there have been close games.”

Bashford said that tighthead prop Wiehahn Herbst, with a dislocated ankle, will be out until the start of the Super 14.

“Both Deon Carstens and Pat Cilliers can play on either side of the scrum and U21 players Dale Chadwick and Julian Redlinghuys can provide cover,” he said.

Meanwhile Boland, now bottom of the log, have problems following their 50-16 away defeat by the Leopards last Friday with their three leading scrumhalves (Danie van der Merwe, Marnus Hugo and Neil Papier) either injured or suspended.

Coach Deon Davids said his team had “made foolish mistakes against the Leopards and made it easy for the home side”.

“It is a very difficult time for us. We lose too many balls in the contact situation and we do not take our chances on attack.”

Friday’s match kicks off at 3 pm and will not be televised.

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