Keegan Daniel may have earned his regular starting spot this year due to the unfortunate injury of Sharks teammate Jean Deysel, but the slightly built flank has a golden opportunity to measure himself against one of the undisputed breakdown kings of the game at the weekend.
Rugby 365′s Jan De Koning caught up with Keegan Daniel
The table-topping Sharks face the fast-improving Crusaders in a Super 14 Round 10 clash in Durban on Saturday, where Daniel will get the chance to measure himself against one of the world’s foremost openside flanks in All Black captain Richie McCaw.
Deysel, who damaged knee ligaments in the opening match of their Australasian tour against the Chiefs in Week Three, is not expected back until after the Sharks’ bye next week.
It has afforded Daniel the opportunity of not only more game time, but also a regular starting spot – which has helped as he polished his game.
“The more you play the better you will get, because you have a lot more time on the field to enhance your skills,” Daniel told rugby365.com in a break from training, as the Sharks prepared for their showdown with the Crusaders.
“You get to sort the small details out, because there’s only so much you can do in training,” he said.
While he has had plenty of time to polish his own game, Daniel feels it will be vital to stay within the team structures and not get sidetracked by the one-on-one duel with McCaw on Saturday.
“Everyone knows Richie McCaw is a world class player and how valuable he is to his team,” Daniel said, adding: “It is always great to play against a player of such high calibre and that’s the nature of this competition – week in and week out you test yourself personally and as a team against some of the best players in the world.
“Yes, I’m relishing the opportunity of playing against the Crusaders and hopefully help getting our team back on track.
“But you can’t focus on individuals too much, because you can loose the plot,” the Sharks flank added.
At 1.88m and 92kg Daniel is small by modern loose forward standards, but he is happy that his other attributes make up for that.
While he has had some time to gel with Jacques Botes and Ryan Kankowski as a loose trio, it is his individual role that probably needed most adjustment in the absence of Deysel.
Especially with Daniel and Botes both specialist openside flanks, one of them – in this case Daniel – had to take over Deysel’s ball-carrying duties.
“We [Daniel and Botes] are similar in some ways, but we are also very different in other ways,” he told rugby365.com.
“As much as I’m seen as an openside flank, I just had to adapt to the role of the ball carrier since the injury to Jean [Deysel].
“I may not bring a lot of size to the team, but I do bring a better running game to the side.
“We’ve just tried to adapt the best we can,” Daniel added.
He will be hoping to continue his amazing try-scoring feats against the Crusaders this weekend.
The 24-year-old livewire flank was credited with the quickest try scored in last year’s Super 14 – when he dotted down within 19 seconds of kick-off against the Blues.
He scored another two in the Super 14, before finishing as the top try-scorer in the Currie Cup competition with nine.
With nine appearances in this year’s Super 14 he has taken his total of Sharks caps to 74 – 39 in the Currie Cup (debut in 2006) and 35 in the Super 14 (debut also in 2006).
By Jan de KoningTweet