The Sharks are not exactly the flavour of the month, with many pundits already dismissing them as serious contenders for the 2010 Super 14 title.
Johann Muller spoke to Jan de Koning of www.rugby365.com.
And you can’t exactly blame the critics, considering the men from Durban had been convincingly beaten – 26-0 by the Western Force and 29-14 by the Stormers – in their pre-season matches.
However, veteran lock Johann Muller has warned that those judging the Sharks on the basis of those two matches in Cape Town last week may be underestimating the Durban-based outfit.
Muller, despite seeking an early exit from his Sharks contract, after Irish province Ulster approached the 23-Test veteran to join them in June, told rugby365.com that he is “very excited” about the season ahead.
Sharks CEO Brian van Zyl and Muller have both acknowledged that they are discussing the possibility of the veteran lock’s exit from the Durban-based franchise before his contract expires at the end of the year.
However, the matter won’t be resolved until it has been discussed at a board meeting next month and Muller will be available for the entire Super 14.
And he is looking to make a major contribution as the Sharks seek to end their Super Rugby drought, having been runners-up three times and semifinalists on another three occasions in the 14 years since the game turned professional.
“I see that the people are writing us off and others are really concerned,” Muller, who captained the Sharks to Currie Cup glory in 2008, told rugby365.com.
“To those people who are writing us off, as well as those suggesting there are problems in the Sharks camp, nothing could be further from the truth.
“We have never been as happy as we are now as a group and everything is 100 percent hunky-dory.”
Muller explained that it had been deliberate ploy to go into the pre-season tri-series at Newlands last week “a little underdone”.
The 30-year-old second row forward said they had learnt from last year, when they had a really tough pre-season in which they worked very hard.
“We won seven of our first eight games, but then hit a slump towards the end of the season and fatigue set in,” Muller said of their 2009 campaign – which even saw them beat the losing finalists the Chiefs in Hamilton, the Blues in Auckland and the Western Force in Perth.
Despite topping the table through the first nine weeks, the men from Durban dropped out of the race and back into the chasing bunch as they lost four of their last five games.
“This year we decided to do things a bit differently,” Muller said, adding: “We have decided to start a bit slower and then peak at the right times … that is why we are still a bit underdone at this stage.
“We still have about 10 days to go [before they face the Chiefs in the opening round in Durban on February 13].
“The players in the team are certainly not concerned. We know what we need to do and we know what the goals are that we are working towards. As I said, people shouldn’t read too much into these warm-up games.
“You will write us off at your own peril.”
Muller said he is enjoying the underdog status attached to the Sharks at present.
“It is kind of nice to go into a tournament like this where everybody is writing us off.
“Last year, after we won the Currie Cup in 2008, everybody said: ‘This  is going to be the year, they won the Currie Cup and they have a great team.’
“We believed that and it is so easy to believe that [hype] and then you step into a trap.
“This year it is exactly the opposite, everybody is writing us off and it is a handy position to be in as a team.
“As a team we know what we want and our coaching staff know what they want. We are very positive and looking forward to the next 10 days so we can prepare ourselves for the opening match [against the Chiefs].”
Muller, despite seven years of first class rugby that includes 23 Tests, 74 Super Rugby matches and 64 provincial games, said he is still “very excited” about the season ahead.
“I played very little rugby last year with the fractured arm [suffered in the opening round of the Currie Cup],” Muller said, adding: “These warm-up games were the most I played in seven months.”
He said his body is still “a bit stiff” from the two games at Newlands last week, as he is not used to the contact.
“But I am very excited about the season ahead.
“It [the Super 14] is still the best tournament and you are being tested every Saturday by the best players in the world and that is why we play this game – to play in the big games and play against the best in the world.”Tweet