Sharks without Steyn in ‘toughest match’

Sharks coach Dick Muir is under no illusions as to the strength of his opponents on Saturday, six-time Super rugby champions the Crusaders of Christchurch.

And he will also have to do without his young star Francois Steyn, who will be out until after the Cheetahs game the following week in Bloemfontein, following a minor ankle injury.

“This will be our toughest match so far.

“The margin of the win in Bloemfontein was surprising after the Crusaders had lost to the Lions the week before, but at the same time we knew it was only a matter of time before a team of their pedigree came right,” Muir told the Mercury.

Muir is not counting on a weakened Crusaders side that is currently missing the likes of Dan Carter, Richie McCaw, Chris Jack and Aaron Mauger.

“The Crusaders are so much more than the half a dozen All Blacks that are not playing.

“You don’t win six Super titles simply because of star players. Their emphasis has always been on the team, not individuals, and with a shrewd coach such as Robbie Deans heading a management team that has been around for a long time, you have a class act.

“We have to improve in every aspect of our game. We are coming off our bye and historically this competition has showed that teams struggle to pick up where they left off after the break. However, the bye has come at the right time for us.”

Muir is not unhappy with the Sharks’ bye – each team only has one in the competition – coming so early on in the Super 14.

“In terms of the competition, our bye came at an early stage (the fourth week) but we have been training intensely since November, so we see our bye as having come about half way through the competition.”

Despite the rest after the Highlanders game, Francois Steyn was unable to sufficiently recover from the ankle injury sustained in that victory. The 19-year-old Springbok will sit out the next two games as a result.

But Butch James was scheduled to resume fly-half duties this week regardless, so the loss to the Sharks is not that great.

Another rested Springbok, captain John Smit will also come back into the side for the Crusaders match, taking over from Bismarck du Plessis.

The Sharks will also enjoy the return of their veteran hardman, lock Johan Ackermann, who has recovered sufficiently from his calf injury to make a start on Saturday, in a straight swap for Steven Sykes.

Jacques Botes is also set to return in the place of Warren Britz, whilst Bobby Skinstad is likely to be on the bench.

The Sharks are expecting a close to capacity crowd on Saturday, as they have had good turn-outs in all three of their previous late-night match, and Saturday’s clash, scheduled for late afternoon in Durban, promises to be played in hot and sunny conditions.

 

365 Digital

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