Sharks’ Michalak is no soft target

2008-02-08 00:00

IF opposition Super 14 teams see Sharks flyhalf Freddie Michalak as a soft touch this season, they may well be in for a surprise.

The slightly-built — in South African terms — Frenchman is certain to be targeted by ball-carrying opponents who in past seasons have steered clear of the flyhalf channel for fear of bumping into the intimidating Butch James.

Michalak, at 80 kg, is lighter even than Brent Russell and weighs in some 20 kg less than James and Frans Steyn. But he showed, in the 33-5 win against the Lions on Wedneday, that he is prepared to lay his body on the line.

Sharks coach Dick Muir was delighted: “He defended incredibly well, which is something people might not expect from a player his size.”

Muir thought that Michalak, with ball in hand, may have been trying too hard. “I thought he had some special touches. Perhaps tried to do too much, but you can see the class coming through. What I enjoyed was that he was prepared to take control.”

Muir told the Sharks website that he was still undecided about the value of the new laws.

“There are pros and cons to the new laws. It’s difficult to make a judgment as the game lacked rhythm and once it did start to flow, the guys started coming into their own.”

The laws, he said, were not vastly different in spite of the fuss, but he said that attacking from scrums had changed and the Sharks would have to adapt.

“At this stage I’m happy with where we are. You don’t want to be peaking going into the competition and we are far from that, but you also don’t want to be totally underdone. I think we are in a good place right now.”

He said he had no new major injury concerns with JP Pietersen, BJ Botha and Frans Steyn, a late withdrawal with an ankle niggle, all nursing minor ailments.

The Sharks open their Super 14 challenge against the Western Force next Friday.

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