Keegan Daniel says there’s no in-fighting in the Sharks camp.
With five losses from five starts, the Sharks find themselves in the unfamiliar 12th position on the Super 14 log. Despite the player drain over the last couple of years, the Sharks still have one of the best squads in the tournament as they regularly field over 10 Springboks, but continue to disappoint their fans.
With every loss, the talk of a split between captain John Smit and the Du Plessis brothers Bismarck and Jannie, continues to surface. Bismarck has had to sit on the bench for two games, Jannie has started a couple, while Smit has started all the matches so far.
Daniel predictably backed his team-mates and coach, and said there were no off-field problems, although on the field the trio all look visibly frustrated. They have all been sin-binned throughout the season, while the Du Plessis brothers lambasted replacement scrumhalf Rory Kockott late in the Brumbies match for what they deemed a poor decision to pass to Jannie as the Sharks looked for the winning try.
‘Talk of a split is bullshit,’ Daniel told keo.co.za. ‘Personally, I say there is no rift in the camp. We are the ones here and we know what’s going on. People are just looking for a story and are looking for other reasons for the losses. The mood in the camp is great, we all see how we hang out together and get along.
‘If people think a rift is the reason for losing, then that’s what they must write, but it’s not true.’
Whatever the reason for their poor form, the facts are that the Sharks have lost seven consecutive Super 14 matches and have won just one from their last 10. Most recently they went down to the Brumbies 24-22, the fourth time this season they’ve lost by less than five points.
‘I wouldn’t say confidence is a problem, although anyone will tell you that after five losses it does become harder to pick yourselves up,’ said Daniel. ‘We are positive as we’ve been so close in losing by narrow margins. We’d be having a different conversation right now if we’d won those.
‘But we haven’t been clinical enough in closing out games after being in good positions. Indiscipline again cost us against the Brumbies, as two penalties led to their tries.’
The Sharks’ last victory in the competition came against the Highlanders, who they face on Saturday at Carisbrook. The Landers return from their South African road trip, where they were hammered by the Stormers and Bulls. They will also be jet-lagged after the return journey.
John Plumtree’s charges have also won on their last three visits to the House of Pain, and if they don’t repeat that this year, more questions will be rightfully raised.
‘They say history doesn’t lie and we have been successful there, but we mustn’t take anything for granted,’ said Daniel. ‘We’ll go in with confidence after doing reasonably well, but the Highlanders are still a Super 14 franchise who can play good rugby.’
Meanwhile, centres Adi Jacobs (knee) and Riaan Swanepoel (ankle) are battling to be fit for Saturday’s match, while prop Deon Carstens is also struggling with a knee injury.
By Grant Ball