Frederic Michalak’s departure from the Sharks scene might well end up being a blessing in disguise because the stuttering backline has an opportunity for a second start, this time under the guidance of Ruan Pienaar.
Mike Greenaway, reporting for IOL, is on tour with the Sharks.
Pienaar had moments of brilliance against the Waratahs and could have played better and more consistently had his lightweight pack of forwards not been given a hiding at the breakdowns.
On Monday morning the Sharks trained at the picturesque Clearwater Resort near Christchurch where they have based themselves ahead of the Crusaders game on Friday, and it was clear that it is Pienaar that will be charged with reviving the Sharks’ fortunes.
The Clearwater resort has a Championship golf course sprawled alongside rivers, lakes and trees which are in rich, autumn colours.
Many rugby critics have long contended that flyhalf is Pienaar’s best position because of the fluidity and ease with which he distributes the ball down the backline, and Sharks coach Dick Muir will be giving the 24-year-old an extended run in the position so that Pienaar can decide whether he wants to make a full go of the position.
Given that South Africa has a shortage of quality flyhalves, but a preponderance of scrumhalves, it might not be a bad career move for Pienaar, who has found himself behind Rory Kockott at 9 this season, although Muir says that in his long-term planning he had Pienaar down to start at scrumhalf against the Crusaders.
The jury is still out as to the impact Michalak made with the Sharks.
There was no denying his skill and talent, and he impressed with his defence, but language in such a vital position was a problem, and often he communicated by sign language.
There was always going to be an adjustment period and, sadly, Michalak was just starting to show signs that he was settling down, and that the players were getting used to him, when he got injured.
In another probable change to the backline, Bradley Barritt seems over his shoulder injury and will resume at 12, with Frans Steyn reverting to 13 and Waylon Murray to the bench.
The return of Barritt will be a boost because of his organisational skills, especially on defence.
There are two major concerns regarding the forwards. Captain Johann Muller and hooker Bismarck du Plessis did not train because of calf and sternum injuries respectively and a decision on their participation in the game will be taken on Wednesday.
Muller’s leadership was missed against the Waratahs and Du Plessis’s bulk and fiery demeanour would be heavily missed in a pack that this season has been short on grunt at the best of times.
In a probable unforced change, Muir and John Plumtree will beef up their loose trio by replacing Keegan Daniel with either Jean Deysel or AJ Venter.Tweet