Keegan Daniel says the Sharks game against the Valke will be an opportunity to fine tune their structures before an impending trip to Bloemfontein or Pretoria.
The Sharks need a full haul of points to maintain an outside chance of hosting a home semi-final, while four points will be enough to shake off the Lions who are snapping at their heels.
Daniel chose to pre-empt the result of the Durban encounter. “We’ll be looking to build and improve on our performances of recent weeks,” he told keo.co.za. “We view this as a new phase in our season and we’ll be looking to put our gameplan and structures right for either the Cheetahs or the Bulls.”
He however tempered his comments with perspective and warns that the Sharks would not be complacent going into the game. “It’s possible to lose a bit of focus when you are on the brink of a semi-final but we certainly won’t be underestimating them.
“This is a big game for us because if we don’t get the five points we shoot ourselves in the foot.”
By Dick Muir opting to rest many of his key players, he has sent out the message that he is confident in the ability of those members of his squad who have had significantly less game-time to get the win.
But want happens if the Brakpan outfit streak into a lead? Does Muir send on the experienced campaigners? And what message does that send to the run-on team?
Daniel shuns that pragmatic approach. “The coach instills a sense of belief in every player he selects. He wouldn’t choose you if he didn’t think you were capable of getting the job done,” he said.
Daniel has been largely used to make an impact on games when they’ve opened up in the latter stages. Against both the Vodacom Cheetahs (last Saturday) and Vodacom Bulls (at Loftus) he has done this to great effect, scoring late tries. But is he fearful that he might be slapped with the “impact player” tag, much like a famous Sharks team-mate?
“I’m not afraid of that at all,” he insists. “I’m at that point in my career when I’m happy to be learning from the senior players. My opportunity to start will come.
“Having said that I hope to get a full game against the Valke. I need game-time to find some form ahead of the play-offs. It’s very different playing for 15 minutes than it is to playing 80 minutes.
“You have a chance to fully express and pace yourself, safe in the knowledge that you’ll be around for the whole game and it gives you a clearer idea of the kind of form you’re in.”
Daniel will be a key factor at the breakdown but at 89kg, his aptitude to develop into a complete loose-forward, one with the ability to be as effective scavenging ruck situations, as he is at carrying the ball, has been questioned.
“You get two different types of ball-carriers. Those who run into players, and those who run into space,” he retorts. “I fall into the second catergory. That’s my strength.”
By Ryan Vrede