Sharks need to beat Crusaders : Muir



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The Sharks left their pre-training session meeting on Monday afternoon with their ears roasting after their coaching staff had let them know in no uncertain terms that the performance against New South Wales was completely unacceptable.

“We have let ourselves down, and now we must fix the damage,” coach Dick Muir said in The Mercury.

“That is the bottom line here. We need a result this week.

“We must get on that plane with a win if we are to achieve our pre-season goal of having the luxury of a home semifinal.”

The Sharks have lost their second placing to the Waratahs but that is the least of their concerns as this week they face the toughest team in the competition after five weeks on the road.

They are however confident that they can halt their two-match losing streak by beating the Crusaders at home.

“Of course we can,” said Muir.

“We don’t deny that Super 14 challenges don’t get much tougher than this, but we are in a situation now where we have to get our act together, and when the pressure is on we tend to do that.”

Muir said that the Sharks were desperately keen to avoid having to rely on other results to help them reach the semifinals.

“If we win our final three games (Crusaders, Cheetahs, Chiefs) we will probably finish second on the table and earn a home semi.

“If we lose, we fall into the chasing pack and have no guarantee of making the semifinals.

“We certainly don’t want that. We have very painful memories of the 2006 season when after the very last match (Stormers v Bulls at Newlands) we lost out on points difference, and the Bulls went through.

Muir added that the Crusaders game was the first of the third phase of the Sharks’ Super 14 season.

“Our first phase was our five matches up until our bye (in the sixth round); the second phase began with our last match before we left on tour (against the Reds in Durban – to prevent one-foot-on-the-plane syndrome) and ended with the match against the Waratahs; and our third and final phase begins with our last tour game (again, to prevent one-foot-on-the-plane syndrome) through to the end of the competition.

“We succeeded in phase one,” Muir said, “but phase two has been a big disappointment.”

After being on the road for five weeks the Sharks have picked up a number of injuries.

On the latest injury list is Bismarck du Plessis (sternum), Johann Muller (calf), Frans Steyn (bruised thigh), Bradley Barritt (shoulder) and Albert van den Berg (bruised thigh).

Of the five, Du Plessis is looking the worst and the early indications are that Craig Burden will get his first ever Super 14 start.

Muller described himself as “likely” to play, and the rest should recover.

Muir will continue with Ruan Pienaar at flyhalf; Barritt will return at 12 with Steyn going back to 13 for Waylon Murray; Muller will replace Albert van den Berg; Jannie du Plessis will make way for B J Botha and, on the flank, either Jean Deysel or A J Venter will take over from Keegan Daniel.

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