Russell could be Treu star

Springboks Sevens coach Paul Treu believes a stint in the shortened format could restore Brent Russell’s shattered confidence.

Treu has approached Saru’s manager of national teams, Andy Marinos, to negotiate Russell’s release from the Sharks for their preseason training camp commencing 30 October, and the Dubai and George legs of the IRB Sevens Series thereafter. A decision is expected on Monday.

“Brent needs game time to regain his confidence,” Treu told keo.co.za. “He has been on the bench for most of the Super 14 and Currie Cup campaign and that certainly hasn’t been good for him.

“New Zealand used the Sevens format to boost the confidence of two of their top players, Joe Rokococo and Jerome Kaino, and look at their form now, it did them the world of good,” he added.

Sharks coach Dick Muir has never satisfactorily justified Russell’s omission from his side. Earlier in the Absa Currie Cup Muir told this website he feared teams might look to exploit Russell’s 1.73m, 81kg frame with the high ball if he selected him to play in the back three. But he persisted with selecting Adi Jacobs, who stands at 1.79m and though he has the wood on Russell in the weight stakes (91kg), is significantly slower.

Another perpetual criticism of the 26-year-old’s game is his defensive ability, something Treu said was not the slightest concern for him.

“I don’t think his defence is suspect at all,” he asserted. “I played with him when he first played Sevens and the guy rarely missed a tackle and if he did he was quick enough to get back and cover. He runs very good defensive lines as well, so that is not a concern of mine at all.”

Negotiations over a proposed move for Russell to WP have seemingly broken down after it looked certain he would return to the Cape. Die Burger reported this morning that despite a written agreement to release the player, the Sharks now want him to honour his contract, which runs until the end of 2007.

Rudolf Straeuli, commercial manager of the Sharks said that it would not make sense for the union to release a player they had invested millions of rand and then release him from his contract.

All this points to another season for Russell spent on the wood with a blanket draped over his shoulders in Auckland or with his feet up on a balmy night in Durban.

With Frans Steyn Muir’s first choice flyhalf and JP Pietersen occupying the No 15 shirt, Russell looks set to challenge Adi Jacobs for a starting berth.

Treu however said he envisioned playing Russell at flyhalf and centre, as the player had all the attributes needed to succeed.

“We are looking for a world class player to fill those positions. You need pace, great peripheral vision and decision making abilities under pressure,” he explained.

“Brent has all that. He just needs to be given a chance to express himself and enjoy his rugby once again.”

By Ryan Vrede