Muller’s injury a serious setback

2009-07-13 00:00

THE loss of captain Johann Muller to a broken arm that will see him out of action for the next six weeks is a grave setback for he Sharks as they look to revitalise their Currie Cup campaign against Boland on Friday night at King’s Park.

Having lost their opening encounter 29-15 against Western Province at Newlands on the weekend does apply some degree of pressure on the reigning champions, but certainly this is not the time to start hitting panic buttons and a measure of composure is what is needed now.

“We’ve had a pretty good review and the players understand what they need to do,” said coach John Plumtree. “We just need to look forward to this weekend.”

He confirmed that Stefan Terblanche will be entrusted with the responsibility of captaincy for the immediate future. With 150 caps for the Sharks, the fullback is one of the most experienced players in the squad. He has also accumulated 37 Test caps for South Africa.

With Muller out, Nikolai Blignaut and Michael Rhodes will provide cover, with Albert van den Berg likely to partner Steven Sykes in the second row.

Plumtree conceded that too many penalties were given away in their own half against Province, allowing ace goal-kicker Willem de Waal to pile on the points for a personal tally of 19.

“We conceded soft points in the first minute and a try when we were yellow-carded. Other than that, there wasn’t too much in it really, there were just some moments in the game. We fought back nicely to 12-10 and were starting to build pressure, but after that we let ourselves down.”

The Sharks coach admitted that success in the match against Boland is vital.

“The boys know what they need to do, we’ve spoken about responsibility, it’s a pressure game and everyone needs to stand up. They’re here as professional rugby players and have a responsibility, and pressure will be applied.

“Discipline let us down when we didn’t need to concede penalties, so players’ decision-making needs to be more accurate. If you concede penalties in your own half against any Currie Cup teams with good kickers, you will concede three points and if you concede penalties in their half, you concede yardage, so we have to be disciplined.

“We can’t get ourselves into scoring opportunities and give away the advantage.”

This weekend presents contrasting conditions for the pack, with Durban in winter-time much drier and the conditions more to their liking. Plumtree admitted that against Province the pack didn’t deliver their best performance in very tough conditions.

“We didn’t scrum as consistently as we would have liked to and didn’t drive as accurately as we wanted to,” he said. “Certainly we weren’t dominated by Province but we didn’t get it entirely accurate. They had one or two scrums on us when we were a man down though.”

However, there is no point in adopting a doom and gloom outlook — it is just the first weekend’s action after all and certainly the tournament has a long way to go before a winner is declared, one that may not necessarily be leading the way right now (as in the case of Griquas who top the log, thanks to a bonus point upset victory over the Cheetahs).

“We know what we have got and we’ve just lost our captain, which is bad, but we have an opportunity to get five points this weekend,” Plumtree said.

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