Oz league legend rates Sharks’ chances for Super 14

2009-01-15 00:00

THE Super 14 rugby season is still four weeks away, but the Sharks are already receiving rave reviews.

Sharks CEO Brian van Zyl, a rugby man not given to hyperbole, travelled up to Michaelhouse from Durban on Wednesday to watch the Sharks at their training camp and said they “looked exceptional”.

“I was most encouraged by their mood and their physical condition. I can’t remember ever seeing them looking so strong at this stage of the season.”

His view was yesterday echoed by Australian rugby genius Andrew Johns, who has returned to Sydney after a week with the Sharks.

Johns is convinced the Sharks will excel in this year’s Super 14 and he hopes to link up with John Plumtree’s squad when they travel to Australia for their Super 14 games later this season.

Johns’s stint with the Sharks followed a chance meeting with Dick Muir, the Sharks coach at the time, at a Sydney hotel last May.

“I was blown away with their set-up (in Durban) and how the players accepted me, considering I was from the dark side (rugby league),” Johns told the Daily Telegraph yesterday.

“It was the first time I had done anything using the principles taught to me in rugby league and crossing them over to union.

“I did a bit of everything. I think kicking in the Australian National Rugby League is now used as a big attacking weapon and I was just going through the variety of kicks, how to disguise the kicks, how to get the opposition out of position.

“It went well. I think South Africa are really trying to change the way they play and are trying to get more skill-based.

“The coaching staff told me their players are raised to bash and barge. If they can grasp the skills it’s a scary thought because they are a giant race of people.”

Van Zyl said that Johns’s agent has already contacted him about the possibility of future links with the Sharks.

“The feedback I have from the Sharks players is really positive. They were surprised that Johns arrived at training thinking they would not listen to him because of his league background. In fact, the opposite was true. He taught the playmakers a lot about deception and using dummy moves.”

Plumtree said he is delighted with Johns’s input.

“He is very professional and the way he’s prepared training sessions and the way he’s conducted them have been outstanding.

“It’s been massive for our play-makers and it also benefits our coaching staff,” Plumtree told the Sharks’ website. “It’s been very positive, a relationship I can see continuing for a number of years.”

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