By Jacques van der Westhuyzen for IOL
He hasn’t quite made the impact Sharks fans would have been hoping for, but perhaps that has more to do with coach Dick Muir changing his flyhalf so often than with him being out of form.
But the Sharks are still unbeaten in the Super 14 this season, so the contribution of Frederic Michalak cannot be ignored.
The French import has shown glimpses of brilliance when he’s got the nod to start at No 10, but he has almost been more effective from the bench, when he’s had to stand down to youngster Frans Steyn.
“The number on my back is not important to me,” he says. “If Dick (Muir) wants to put me on the bench, that’s fine. I play for the team and that’s all that matters.”
While it has been Steyn who’s been playing musical chairs with the 25-year-old, Michalak is of the opinion that scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar should be the one getting a run at flyhalf.
“I would love to see Ruan at No 10,” he says.
For a long time now, pundits have believed Pienaar’s best position is flyhalf, especially when one considers the plethora of talent available at scrumhalf – Fourie du Preez, Ricky Januarie, Jano Vermaak and, more recently, Sharks team-mate Rory Kockott. And let’s not forget that South Africa doesn’t have great depth at flyhalf.
“All the flyhalves in South Africa are very good. I think, however, that Butch James is the best,” says Michalak.
World Cup-winning flyhalf James is now playing for Bath in England and has never played alongside Michalak, but the two have opposed each other on the rugby field.
Perhaps new Springbok coach Peter de Villiers will look to James to continue at No 10 when the international season starts in June.
Michalak has been called a rugby genius – not surprising when one considers he played for Toulouse at the age of 16 in 1998 – but why leave a good life behind in France, where he is an icon, to play in South Africa?
“The Sharks chose me, and I’ve always wanted to play Super 14 rugby,” he says.
“The new experimental law variations also suit my game, and they improve options on attack. The competition’s a lot more physical than what we have in France, and the best players of three countries are involved each week. It’s very exciting rugby.”
Michalak adds, however, that if the Super 14 is to survive and prosper, the administrators must open it up to the international market.
“A lot of South Africans and New Zealanders are playing in Europe, so why not allow foreign players like me to play Super 14?”
So, can the Sharks go all the way this year and make good on losing in the final seconds to the Bulls in last year’s final?
“I hope so. We’re training hard every day to achieve our goal. Dick Muir is a very good coach and for me, he is cool and very professional – not like the French coach,” he says without elaborating.
What’s with the socks that are always around his ankles?
“I push them down sometimes when I get cramps in my calves.”
With his hair dyed white, Michalak can’t be missed on the field, and while he’s yet to really produce the magic he’s known for, it’s surely just a matter of time before he delivers the performance that Sharks fans have been waiting for.
But then, coach Muir must give him an extended run in the No 10 jersey.Tweet