Sharks eyeing the high road

Wed, 16 Jan 2013 07:02
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The Sharks are determined to make a more convincing start to the Super Rugby season after having to fight their way into the play-offs last year.

The Sharks are determined to make a more convincing start to the Super Rugby season after having to fight their way into the play-offs last year.

The Durban outfit struggled to find enough early season consistency in 2012 and found themselves scraping into the knock-out phase which resulted in a taxing travel schedule during the play-offs that saw them fall at the final hurdle against the Chiefs in Hamilton.

Captain Keegan Daniel is adamant that his side have learnt a valuable lesson from that experience, and has called on them to start the competition on the front foot despite the notoriously humid and slippery conditions in Durban early in the year.

"We were consistent in the fact that we made finals, but in terms of our performances we probably weren't as consistent as we would have liked," the skipper said.

"We slipped up at times in the last competition, which put us under pressure towards the end. We want to be a lot more consistent in the way we perform in the games early on this season," he explained.

A notable absentee from full training was Springbok hooker Bismarck du Plessis, who remains sidelined after undergoing surgery to fix ligament damage in his right knee.

However, Frans Steyn is easing his way back to full swing after missing the last three months of the year through an ankle injury.

"Frans has started running again and is doing pretty well, he's right on schedule," Daniel said. "But Bismarck will take a bit longer, he had a big injury, but the medical team is working hard with him."

The Sharks also have two new experienced faces in their ranks in the shape of veteran flyhalf Butch James and lock Franco van der Merwe.

Daniel feels that the pair will add huge value to a side already filled with talent.

"Butch has been around, he's been here before and will fit back in easily and will add a lot of value. It's also good to have Franco here, he will add invaluable experience to the second row.

"You know we struggled a little there in the past. He's captained the Lions and has been in the Springbok squad recently, so it's good to have someone like that in the tight five," he added.

Despite the considerable talent pool in Durban, Daniel refuses to take anything for granted and knows his team will have to work hard to gain some early momentum this year.

"You can look at any squad and say it's a great squad with good depth, but at the end of the day you've got to put it all together on the field.

"But we do have some good young players who've come through nicely and spent one or two seasons playing Currie Cup or Super Rugby. Then the likes of Butch and Franco are just going to add to that," he said.

Coach John Plumtree's men play pre-campaign warm-up matches against the Leopards in Pietermaritzburg on February 8 and the Pumas in Nelspruit on February 15, before launching their Super Rugby season against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on February 23.

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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Fri, 27 May 2016
Hurricanes v Highlanders 07h35 Wellington
Waratahs v Chiefs 09h40 Sydney
Boland v Eagles 13h00 Wellington
Free State Cheetahs v Pumas 13h00 Bloemfontein
Kings v Jaguares 17h00 Ascoli Piceno
Border v Falcons 17h00 East London
Sat, 28 May 2016
Blues v Crusaders 07h35 Eden Park
Brumbies v Sunwolves 09h40 Canberra
Western Province v Griquas 10h15 Newlands
Blue Bulls v Leopards 12h15 Loftus Versfeld
Stormers v Cheetahs 13h00 DHL Newlands
Namibia v Griffons 13h00 Windhoek
Golden Lions v EP Kings 13h00 Johannesburg
Saracens v Exeter Chiefs 14h00 London
Bulls v Lions 15h05 Loftus Versfeld
Leinster v Connacht 16h30 Edinburgh
Sun, 29 May 2016
Rebels v Force 06h05 Melbourne
England v Wales 14h00 London
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Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Waratahs 11 6 0 5 30
Brumbies 11 7 0 4 29
Rebels 10 5 0 5 23
Reds 13 3 1 9 16
Force 11 2 0 9 11
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Chiefs 11 9 0 2 42
Crusaders 11 9 0 2 41
Highlanders 11 8 0 3 37
Hurricanes 11 7 0 4 36
Blues 11 6 1 4 29
Pool SA1
Team P W D L Pts
Bulls 11 7 1 3 32
Stormers 11 6 1 4 32
Cheetahs 11 3 0 8 16
Sunwolves 11 1 1 9 9
Pool SA2
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 11 8 0 3 37
Sharks 12 7 1 4 35
Jaguares 11 2 0 9 13
Kings 11 1 0 10 4
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