Sharks’ new defence coach optimistic about season

2015-01-29 00:00

A NUMBER of personnel changes at the Sharks last year saw the arrival of Michael Horak to head up the defence and kicking departments.

Horak joined the Durban outfit after a season with the EP Kings. Prior to that, he was director of rugby at ­Shimlas for two Varsity Cup campaigns before coaching at the Cheetahs for four years.

Although he admitted the heat of Durban was a far cry from his former home in the Free State, Horak is happy to be a part of the Sharks coaching staff.

“It’s been a great privilege to work with a nice bunch of guys. It’s obviously a honeymoon period for a coach but I’ve been enjoying it, even though it is a bit warm,” Horak said.

His move to KwaZulu-Natal came about through Brendan Venter, who has taken charge of the side in the absence of director of rugby Gary Gold.

“Brendan and I go back quite a long time. He phoned me and asked if I’d be interested in coming over here, he was looking for someone to help out with the defence and kicking game. I felt I could add some value and things progressed from there.”

His job is an interesting one as the Sharks have promised to deliver a more attack-orientated game plan this year.

The 37-year-old said the players were putting onus on themselves to work hard at keeping a strong defensive record this year. Practices have often concluded with lengthy sessions of open play working on both attack and ­defence.

“The thing that drives us is the pressure we put on ourselves. The rules and the way the refs blow the game change every year and that has an impact on certain aspects. But with these individuals, they just need guidance and they will go and do the job,” he said.

“We put just as much work on defence as we do on attack. When the one team have the ball, we have three guys watching that while another three look at defensive work,” he said.

Although there are a number of coaches involved at practices, the saying “too many cooks spoil the broth” doesn’t quite apply to the Sharks in Horak’s opinion.

“You can never have enough eyes. Looking at guys like Paul Anthony, he is our off-the-ball coach and he only looks at what the players do away from the ball. That’s just a small part that makes a massive difference. I think the big thing is that the coaches must have an understanding and know what their roles are.”

Away from his defensive ­duties, Horak is more of a facilitator when it comes to the side’s kickers. With accurate kickers like Pat Lambie and Fred Zeilinga, Horak only steps in if they are having problems with their kicking or rhythm.

“As the player level goes up, it’s more about managing and facilitating them. Kicking for poles is one thing but the kicking game — relieving pressure and helping the players understand — that’s where I get involved.”

The Sharks pre-season friendly against Toulon in France next week offers a unique opportunity to hone defence against an attacking side.

“They’ve got big carriers all over the park. They are quite direct but they’ve also got players that are unpredictable. You have to cover many threats because they are a world class team,” he said.

•The Sharks are set to announce the squad for their pre-season friendly in Toulon later today.

The Witness can confirm that former captain Keegan Daniel will not come back to Durban this year, after talk of his return from Japan last year.

Meanwhile, the Sharks will welcome back Frans Steyn, JP Pietersen and Ryan Kankowski from their respective Japanese clubs.

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