DURBAN – Keegan Daniel is one of those irrepressible characters that are key to happy rugby teams and his sense of humour was in rude health, as always, when he spoke to the press yesterday after his team’s training session ahead of the Super Rugby match against the Sunwolves on Saturday at Kings Park (3.05pm kick-off)
Daniel would have taken some ribbing from his mates after a quick line-out throw in to himself went awry against the Waratahs last week, but he has shrugged it off with a wry smile. Daniel, incredibly now 33 having seemingly been a youngster in the Sharks squad forever, has characteristically been a lively flanker with an attitude of “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
Before the Waratahs match last week he tweeted that the game would be his first at Super Rugby level since 2016.
Yesterday he grinned when asked about that tweet: “Maybe I have played my last in 2018!” (Daniel missed the 2017 season because of a broken arm.)
“Then before the round one game against the Lions, I got sick and had to withdraw, so that was another inauspicious start to a Super Rugby season,” he laughed. “So it was with some relief that Iaced up the boots last week and got on to the field against the Waratahs.”
It was game of much frustration for the Sharks players and their fans alike. A 24-24 draw would have had the Australians cheering all the way back to their hotel.
“In any situation, when you have the opposition on the ropes and you don’t put them away it is frustrating, and then when you watch the replay of the game and you see the opportunities you created but did not convert, it is very annoying,” Daniel said. “But what the replay did confirm for us is that we are not far off a winning formula.”
He said it was not a case of over-eagerness, but more a case of marginal errors that could so easily have gone the other way and resulted in tries.
“You do not want to curb enthusiasm, and creativity,” he said. “Margins are small when you are intent on attacking - you are either going to be a hero or a villain,” he said, perhaps referring to that solo line-out effort of his that could have resulted in catching the Waratahs’ defence off guard and culminating in a try.
“As long as the guys stick to trying something new and exciting, the approach will eventually pay off. We are not far away,” he said. “It is not like we are going on to the field and don’t know what we are doing, and are throwing games away easily. We are on the right track, we have just got to click, and with the energy in the squad, I think we are close.”
Daniel is one of a small group of 30-plus veterans and acknowledges that he has to lead the way.
“Do I feel any pressure in being one of the veterans? It is a tough question to answer,” the product of Dale College in King Williams Town said. “Pressure is why you play this game. Those moments that can make or break you, you have to embrace. You are living on the edge in Super Rugby games, and I like it.
“Yes the older players must absorb as much pressure as possible and shepherd the youngsters, but it comes naturally for me to try and perform and stand out, and this squad is more settled than it may appear. A lot of our ‘youngsters’ are actually not that young.”