Sonny Bill Williams poses major threat for Sharks’ midfield

2012-04-19 00:00

SONNY Bill Williams, the high-profile All Black and Chiefs centre who doubles as a professional heavyweight boxer, will pose a major threat for the Sharks’ midfield in Saturday’s Super Rugby clash at King’s Park.

The 108 kg Williams, built like a backrow forward but with sublime off-loading skills, joined the Chiefs from the Crusaders this year and has become the hub of an impressive attacking unit.

Certainly the Sharks have admitted that they will have to take special steps to contain him.

“The Chiefs base much of their backplay around him,” Sharks coach John Plumtree said.

“They constantly launch their moves off him. He’s playing very direct rugby and he’s a big guy, as big as a forward.”

Plumtree said Williams was thriving in the pivotal role he was playing.

“He’s in really good form and obviously enjoying his role, so he’s someone we will have to look after.”

But the Sharks are aware that the threat does not start and end with Williams and the Chiefs have a host of quick and powerful runners — and All Blacks — in their backline.

Plumtree added: “They have got lots of X-factor players in their team, but teams have a catalyst to get across the advantage line and Sonny Bill provides that with his power.”

Plumtree said he was satisfied with the form of the Sharks midfield.

“They have been solid and performed well on tour. Tim Whitehead picked up a couple of little injuries, but he played particularly well against the Blues. I’m still positive about JP Pietersen’s move to outside centre and he is still really enjoying that role in the midfield,” he said.

Sharks captain Keegan Daniel has also been impressed by the game-breaking ability of the Chiefs backs.

Daniel said: “They have far more than just Sonny Bill but we have seen what can do in Super Rugby and for the All Blacks.

“He has an unbelievably good off-load game which makes him exceptionally dangerous.

“He’s a big guy who carries a lot of ball, so we will have to pay lot of attention to him.

“The Chiefs backs generally are going to provide us with one of our biggest defensive challenges of the year.”

The Chiefs have opted to train at altitude, staying on at Caesar’s Palace in Johannesburg before travelling to Durban tomorrow.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said the players were expecting to improve on their Bloemfontein form and their 39-33 weekend win over the Cheetahs, and he was delighted the team was now top of the log.

“The leadership group is pretty demanding — we know we can be better. It’s really pleasing to be on top but it’s so early in the competition.”

Rennie cited the players’conditioning and their defence as key factors in the team’s success.

“Our boys are in very good nick, they work very hard. We get great impact off the bench, too, which is really important. Our defence has been our strong point — the players work hard for each other.”

Rennie said he had no injury problems and was keen to field an unchanged team against the Sharks.

The Chiefs are anticipating a seventh successive win against the Sharks and will concentrate on getting the basics right.

Chiefs forwards coach Tom Coventry told reporters that the success of the pack was the product of keeping everything simple.

“Maybe Super Rugby has blurred the roles of forwards over the years.

“They’re asked to carry the ball and do things outside their normal core roles, which is good for the game, but I tend to fly the flag for getting the core things done well and leavinge the finer details to the backline coaches.

“We’ve still got plenty to learn and we can get better as a side.”

And that is not good news for the inconsistent Sharks, who have battled defensively on a occasions this season. The match kicks off at 5.05 pm on Saturday.

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