Dick Muir is confident the Sharks can beat Griquas in the Absa Currie Cup on Saturday despite the loss of flank Keegan Daniel.
Daniel, player of the tournament at the recent U21 World Championship, pulled up sharply with a hamstring injury at a mid-week training session and Muir’s worst fears were realised when the player failed to pass a fitness evaluation prior to the team’s announcement. He however has an optimistic view of the situation.
“Keegan will be a huge loss to us but we have able replacements who are more than capable replacements for him,” Muir told Keo.co.za.
The full extent of of the 20-year-old’s injury will only be known early next week, but Daniel has downplayed its seriousness.
“It’s just a little tightness in my left leg, especially in the groin, glute and hamstring areas.” But he could not hide his disappointment at having to watch from the stands. “I really wanted to play in this game,” he said. “It’s disappointing to sit out, but maybe it’s a good thing, maybe my body needs a rest.”
Muir has been critisised recently for his dual squad system but insists the players have embraced the concept.
“There’s a nice hype in both the squads and everyone is enthusiastic about what’s happening here [at the Sharks]. I’m delighted with the way these youngsters have performed so far. Guys like Ryan Kankowski, Steven Sykes and Sandile Nxumalo were outstanding in the game against the Pumas.”
He was quick to highlight the fact that the team had not played often together so some mistakes were to be expected.
The coach now braces himself for what he expects to be a battle of the two packs come Saturday afternoon.
Sharks forwards coach Theo Oosthuizen warned of this when speaking to the union’s website earlier today.
“Our forwards have to be a lot tighter. Against the Pumas we conceded 35 turnovers, and our average is usually 20. That is unacceptable. To beat Griquas in Kimberley you have to do the basics well. We have to protect the ball because they will be looking to get in amongst us, slowing the ball down and being as disruptive as possible.”
The Sharks lost far too many balls in contact against the Pumas and Muir warns that his team will have to be aware of an ever improving Griquas backline should turnovers occur.
“In previous years they looked to dominate with their forwards, and I expect that to be their gameplan again, but they have become a far more balanced side with really good backs who pose a real threat.
Commenting on his team’s approach to the game he said: “We’ll be looking to dominate up front and try to lay the foundation for our backs to to get good ball and attack from there.”
In three changes to the Sharks team, SA Sevens star Mzwandile Stick gets a run at fullback replacing Brett Hennessey, Warren Britz comes in for Daniel and Jody Jenneker packs down at hooker for Skipper Badenhorst.
Sharks: 15. Mzwandile Stick 14. Dusty Noble 13. Okkie Vermeulen 12. Andries Strauss 11. Craig Burden 10. Steve Meyer 9. Sandile Nxumalo 8. Ryan Kankowski 7. Jaco Gouws (capt) 6. Warren Britz 5. Steven Sykes 4.Wouter Moore 3. Danie Saayman 2. Jody Jenneker 1. Kees Lensing.
Subs: 16 Skipper Badenhorst, 17 Sangoni Mxoli, 18 Alistair Hargreaves, 19 Conrad Stoltz, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 Brad Barritt, 22 Brett Hennessey
Griquas:15.Zane Kirchner,14. Vuyani Dlomo,13. Lafras Uys, 12. Herkie Kruger, 11. MJ Mentz,10.Conrad Barnard,9. JP Joubert,8.Frans Viljoen, 7.Gareth Krause (c), 6.Heinrich Stride, Windpomp van Rooyen, 5.Evan Botha, 4.Hedley Wessels, 3.Willie Wepener, Eugene van Staden.
Subs: 16.Tiaan Liebenberg,17.Cerneels Rautenbach,18.Wayne van Heerden, 19.Jacques Burger/Cilliers Coetzer, 20.Tertius Carse 21.Brendell Brandt, 22.Tiger Mangweni.
By Ryan Vrede