Muller named Sharks captain

2009-01-19 00:00

JOHN Smit is arguably the most respected captain in world rugby, but he will not lead the Sharks in this year’s Super 14.

Sharks head coach John Plumtree told The Witness yesterday that lock Johann Muller, who led the team to victory in last year’s Currie Cup competition, will stay on as captain with Smit, the current Springbok skipper, as his understudy.

“It is a case of continuity,” said Plumtree.

“Johann did an excellent job leading the team last year when John was away (first playing club rugby in France and then linking up with the Springboks).

“John Smit is the present Bok captain and it will mean less pressure for him if he is not also the Sharks captain. I think it makes absolute sense to split the responsibilities.”

Plumtree said that Smit was “happy” with the decision.

“John, Johann and I have a very good relationship and we all agree that this is the best way forward. John will lead the team when Johann is not playing, but this means he can go out, concentrate on his rugby and get ready for the big British Lions tour this year without the pressures of captaining the Sharks.”

What certainly also influenced Plumtree is that John Smit, who led the Boks to their World Cup triumph in 2007, is not an automatic selection for the Sharks.

The Sharks, looking to the future, see the 24-year-old Bismarck du Plessis as their first-choice hooker with Smit, now 30, rotating positions in the front-row. It was a view shared by Bok coach, Peter de Villiers late last year when he named Smit as a specialist tighthead prop for the tour of the UK, with Du Plessis his first-choice hooker.

He had to ditch the plan, however, when Du Plessis was injured and Smit returned to hooker against England at Twickenham where, as captain and player, he was hugely influential in the Boks’ landslide win.

Gysbert Johannes Muller, or Johann to his team-mates, turned 29 earlier this month. The vastly experienced Bok lock has played 61 Super 14 games, 60 Currie Cup games and 22 Tests.

He believes that the return of most of the 2008 squad, and the experience in winning the Currie Cup last year, will serve the Sharks well this year.

“That kind of continuity gives you heaps of confidence, as does the fact that we won a trophy for the first time in 12 years.”

He also said that the presence of Smit would be a huge boost.

“It’s great to have experience and it will help me that there are several other leaders in the squad. The experienced heads help when the pressure starts mounting, but we will still have to play very well [to reach the play-offs].

“We don’t want to place ourselves under pressure by saying we’ll win the Super 14,” he said, “and we are starting with the very difficult challenge of taking on the Stormers at Newlands.”

The Sharks’ Super 14 squad will be named on February 6.

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