Frans Steyn looks set to be ready for the start of the Sharks’ Super Rugby campaign but Bismarck du Plessis’ fitness remains a concern.
Centre Steyn, who returned to the Sharks last July following a two-and-a-half year stint at French club Racing Metro, missed the second half of the 2012 season with an ankle injury which required surgery.
Hooker Du Plessis also underwent surgery, to correct serious damage to ligaments in his right knee which he sustained during the Springboks’ Rugby Championship opener against Argentina.
Sharks captain Keegan Daniel said that while Steyn is looking good for the start of the Super Rugby season, Du Plessis’ rehab is ongoing.
“Frans ran this morning and is doing pretty well, he’s right on schedule but Bismarck will take a bit longer, he had a big injury, but the medical team is working hard with him,” commented Daniel
The Durban side returned to Kings Park on Monday after their Christmas break and will continue building a fitness and conditioning platform from which to launch their Super Rugby challenge.
“The first week is always really tough as the guys get back into it, there’s a lot of hard work to be done with Super Rugby just around the corner and we obviously want to get out of the starting blocks as quickly as possible,” explained Daniel.
Despite the prospect of extreme Durban conditions and preparatory work, he admitted that the players returned to the camp excited for the season ahead.
“The mood was good and there’s a buzz with all the guys catching up again, but we all know why we are here and what we want to achieve this season.”
Commenting on the ‘new’ recruits, he explained that, “Butch [James] has been around, he’s been here before and will fit back in easily and will add a lot of value and it’s also good to have Franco [van der Merwe] here, he will add invaluable experience to the second row.
“He’s obviously played a big role at the Lions and been in the Springbok squad recently, so it’s good to have someone like that in the tight five.”
Looking back to 2012, the Sharks played in both the Super Rugby and Currie Cup finals but Daniel admitted that there are some lessons they’ve learned.
“We were consistent in the fact that we made finals, but in terms of our performances we probably weren’t as consistent as we would have liked,” he said.
“We slipped up at times in the last competition, which put us under pressure towards the end. We want to be a lot more consistent in the way we perform in the games early on this season.”
Looking to the Sharks’ squad depth this year, Daniel explained that potential and success are not necessarily inextricably linked.
“You can look at any squad and say it’s a great squad with good depth, but at the end of the day you’ve got to put it all together on the field.
“But we do have some good young players who’ve come through nicely and spent one or two seasons playing Currie Cup or Super Rugby. Then the likes of Butch and Franco are just going to add to that.”
Counting further in the Sharks’ favour is the fact that they have a settled squad with many experienced players in the camp.
“It helps immensely,” he admitted. “It’s easier to come up with strategies and coming up with plans about what you want to achieve when guys have been around a while and understand the way the coaches do things.”
On his personal role as captain, Daniel feels that there has been growth, but there is room for more.
“I learnt quite a bit and grew as well, but I continuously want to keep on learning and growing as a leader. A new season comes with new challenges, and I’m keen to meet them head on.
“But like Jean [de Villiers] always said, you can’t steer the ship on your own, you need support, and I think there is a good support group below me.”
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