Smear against skipper fires up Sharks for Force

2013-05-17 00:00

THE nasty, unsubstantiated allegation that captain Keegan Daniel is still busy fighting the Anglo-Boer War could be just the jolt the Sharks need to snap their losing Super Rugby streak when they face the Western Force in Perth today.

The Sharks have enough troubles to fill a kitbag, but they have been particularly shaken (and stirred) by this week’s Beeld report that claimed that Daniel was miffed about the number of Afrikaners in his team.

The players have rallied behind their captain and there is reportedly a fresh determination in the squad.

“The support the guys have given Keegan has brought the players even closer together,” said lock Franco van der Merwe. “It has given us even more motivation to beat the Force.”

Force coach Michael Foley is another who believes the rumour is not good news for his team and will serve only to fire up and unify the Sharks.

“The Sharks are very, very hungry,” Foley said yesterday. “They’re going to be particularly passionate on the back of being accused of being a divided squad.

“That always galvanises a team. I think they’d only fracture as a team if there really was infighting, and I don’t believe that is the case.”

The Sharks have apparently shown far greater intensity in their preparations this week, though Daniel says the players have been “fed up for a while” following their series of five defeats.

He said yesterday that the Sharks had been through “a big week”, but that the only way to silence their detractors was by winning.

“We have to perform for ourselves and our supporters,” he said, adding that he had been moved by the loyalty shown him by his team-mates.

The Force are in 13th place on the log, two below the Sharks, and have lost five games in a row to John Plumtree’s outfit.

But this season they have shown real resilience and organisation under Foley and they know they are capable of upsetting the Sharks. As Plumtree has pointed out, the Force have this year already beaten a couple of the leading teams in the competition (the Crusaders and Reds) and last week went down by just one point to the champions Chiefs in New Zealand.

“Those results would have given them real reason to feel confident against us,” Plumtree said, and he knows the Sharks simply cannot afford to pitch up in only one half, as they have done so often this season, and expect to beat the Force in front of their home support.

Plumtree is hoping that the return of experience in Willem Alberts, Anton Bresler and Jannie du Plessis, will add a hard edge to the pack. But there is some risk because the three players dropped to the bench, Jean Deysel, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Wiehahn Herbst, have been among the more consistent performers in a struggling Sharks team this season.

The Sharks are close to having their strongest pack available again — if, for a moment, you can forget about Bismarck du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira — and it is among the backs that they are short-staffed with five of their first-choice players missing (Frans Steyn, Cobus Reinach, Tim Whitehead, Paul Jordaan and Louis Ludik).

Still, there is no shortage of talent and all seven of their backs today have at some stage been involved at Springbok level.

As Bismarck du Plessis remarked this week, the Sharks are not suffering because Daniel feels threatened by the Afrikaners or that there is a rift in the team. They are losing because they are not playing to their potential. Finish and klaar.

We are assured by Daniel that the Sharks are desperate to produce a display of which they can be proud. Their Super Rugby challenge might well be over but Daniel now knows better than anyone that the vultures are circling and a sixth defeat on the bounce will open the door to more ugly rumour and back-stabbing.


Force: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Patrick Dellit, 13 Ben Jacobs, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Matt Hodgson (captain), 5 Sam Wykes, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Heath Tessmann, 1 Pek Cowan Replacements: 16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Rory Walton, 19 Richard Brown, 20 Brett Sheehan, 21 Junior Rasolea, 22 Sam Norton-Knight

Sharks: 15. Riaan Viljoen, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. JP Pietersen, 12. Meyer Bosman, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Keegan Daniel (captain), 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 4. Anton Bresler, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Kyle Cooper, 1. JC Janse van Rensburg

Replacements: 16. Monde Hadebe, 17. Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 19. Derick Minnie/Tera Mtembu, 20. Jean Deysel, 21. Tian Meyer, 22. Piet Lindeque.

Referee: James Leckie (Australia).

Kick-off: 1.45 pm (SA time).


Today: Hurricanes v Chiefs — 9.35 am

Rebels v Stormers — 11.40 am

Force v Sharks — 1.45 pm.

Tomorrow: Crusaders v Blues — 9.35 am

Waratahs v Brumbies — 11.40 am

Bulls v Highlanders — 5.05 pm

Cheetahs v Reds — 7.10 pm

Bye: Kings.

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