FRENCH international Frederic Michalak is happiest when playing flyhalf but the Sharks will be making extensive use of him in the scrumhalf role during Super Rugby.
Sharks coach John Plumtree has already confirmed that Pat Lambie will be his first-choice flyhalf with Michalak providing back-up to both him and scrumhalf Charl McLeod.
Michalak has played at scrumhalf for France and his experience in that position will be welcomed by Plumtree and the Sharks now that it has emerged that the injury to Conrad Hoffman is far more serious than initially believed.
Hoffman damaged a shoulder at the first practice this year and he underwent surgery last week.
Team doctor Ewoudt van der Linde said that Hoffman, who also battled injury last year, would now be out “for at least three months”.
McLeod was injured last year and missed most of the Currie Cup with Hoffman and Ross Cronjé taking over at scrumhalf as the Sharks advanced to the final.
With Hoffman now injured, and Cronjé released to the Lions, Plumtree will have to use Michalak and young Cobus Reinach as back-up to McLeod.
The only two other injury concerns for the Sharks are big loose forwards Willem Alberts and Jean Deysel, who both underwent surgery during the close season. Van der Linde said they were recovering well, but there is no certainty they will be fit for the Super Rugby opener against the Bulls at Loftus on February 24.
“I would say they will definitely be back in the first few weeks of Super Rugby, but both are 50:50 for the Loftus game,” he said.
Plumtree said he was happy with the build-up to the season.
“We have almost everyone out on the field with not too many people in the medical room and that’s a real positive.
“It’s a week-to-week thing with Deysel and Alberts. If they don’t make it for round one, then we’ll have other players. It’s a long season and it’s important that their rehab goes well and when they come back, there aren’t any reoccurrences. That’s the main thing for me. It’s unfortunate for Conrad. He ended up needing an operation, so he’s out for 10 to 12 weeks. We have Charl McLeod at scrumhalf as well as Fred and also Cobus Reinach as back-up.”
Plumtree has conceded that the Sharks could be light at lock.
“We have lost both our starting locks [Gerhard Mostert and Steve Sykes] from the end of last Super Rugby season and they are difficult to replace. The pressure is going to be on Ross Skeate and Alistair Hargreaves to deliver.”
He also admitted that the Sharks had been concentrating on improving their midfield play.
“We had a problem at centre in 2011, but we are expecting a big improvement from Meyer Bosman this season now that he is settled. He started to make big strides towards the end of last season and we are excited about what he offers us. We have lost Stefan Terblanche but have gained Marius Joubert and Tim Whitehead since the last Super Rugby season.
“We have been working hard on the conditioning of Michalak and Marius Joubert, but particularly Marius.”