DURBAN - The Sharks play the Blue Bulls on Wednesday night in Pretoria in a week that is uncharted territory for the players, seeing as they played Griquas last Friday and then play the Golden Lions on Saturday.
“It feels like Craven Week and something that is different and exciting,” smiled, Sharks veteran loose forward Keegan Daniel, who is back in the main starting line-up after spending the first part of the season as a mentor for the youngsters in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge that ran concurrently with Super Rugby.
Now with the Du Preez twins, Daniel and Jean-Luc, having been promoted to the Springboks, Daniel a former Sharks Super Rugby and Currie Cup captain is back in favour.
“I have been around the block a few times and I have had fun playing with the youngsters and now it seems quite strange to be playing in a week like this,” the 32-year-old said.
“A midweek evening game at Loftus is something different and for me it is just awesome to be back on the field at the highest level for your franchise.”
Daniel has been at the Sharks for more than a decade and for so long he was the young buck that needed to be restrained by senior players, but this year it has been a reversal of roles for him.
“It was good to be in the SuperSport team and very enjoyable to play with carefree youngsters. It was exciting to be playing with the ‘thunderclaps’, because that is exactly what they are,” Daniel laughed.
“They just want to get on the field and it takes you back to where rugby used to be for you. But being back in (the) main side is great. You miss the pressure and the expectation.”
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Daniel says that he could not force himself into the Super Rugby team because of the form of the loosies, but now he is relishing another opportunity, even as he reaches stalwart status
“I will be soldiering on. I used to be the thunderclap, but the tables have turned,” he laughed. “I have enjoyed doing my bit in mentoring, but now I have to go for it.
“The nice thing is that we have a good pack. You don’t look at it and say we are light or inexperienced, and it is now about putting the ingredients together and getting the right blend because we are going to be tested this week more so than in the first two weeks at home.
“The last two weeks we showed what we are capable of and we left a lot out there in terms of opportunities created. I don’t think people realise how much dew was on the grass.”
As for the Bulls, it is clear that under the influence of new executive of rugby John Mitchell they are trying to attack more.
“They are trying to change the way the play, they want to be more dynamic,” Daniel said. “Mitch’s influence is there in getting them to evolve, but it will take a while for them to move from their traditional style.
“And this week we are going to be tested on defence, because against the Pumas and Griquas we were not tested for long periods.”