British and Irish Lions prop Andrew Sheridan is flattered but not lulled by the praise being heaped upon him by South Africans ahead of the upcoming Test series.
Sheridan is one of the biggest props in the game, who has the ability to demoralise opponents with his phenomenal strength, particularly in the scrums.
”Andrew Sheridan is one of the greatest looseheads in the world,” Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske said after the prop’s powerful performance helped the Lions beat his team 26-24 a week ago.
”He’s a really good scrummager and can destroy your scrum.”
The 6-foot-4 (1,93mr), 117kg Englishman famously also outshoved the Australian front row at the 2007 World Cup to help his team to an upset victory on the way to the final.
But he played down Drotske’s praise.
”It’s always nice when coaches say nice things about you but at the same time you don’t carried away,” Sheridan said on the eve of the Lions’ latest tour match against Western Province.
”You only need one game when you’re going backwards in the scrum and you’re turning full circle. You’ve got to keep working away and continuing to improve. There’s always room for improvement.”
Sheridan is competing with Wales prop Gethin Jenkins for a start in the first Test against the Springboks at Durban next Saturday, against a strong home pack.
Jenkins was repeatedly penalised by South African referee Jonathan Kaplan in Wednesday’s impressive 39-3 victory over the Sharks in Durban but Sheridan does not believe that gives him the selection edge.
”The penalties were harsh,” he said. ”It’s a bit of a mystery what happens in the scrums. We can only do what we’ve been practicing all the way along we will have to see how the referee sees it. I’m sure I would have been penalised just as much.”
”I know they [team management] have made it clear they won’t be picking a team until after the final warmup game on Tuesday.”
That game against the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth will be the Lions’ sixth preparation match ahead of the test series.
Traditionally, tour sides have their top side out on Saturday and the backup players for midweek games but coach Ian McGeechan, on his seventh Lions tour either as a player or a coach, has gone against that policy by blending player combinations.
”It’s meant that the whole squad has been together the whole time,” Sheridan said. ”You don’t have separate touring parties, one side the midweekers. Everyone wants to get in that test team, everyone is very competitive and wants a test spot but at the same time everyone wants a successful Test series and that’s what everyone’s main objective is.”
The Lions had another injury blow on Friday when Wales captain Ryan Jones, who had only just joined the tour as replacement for Ireland back row Stephen Ferris, was told he was not fit enough to stay because of a head injury he picked up in North America where the Welsh recently beat the United States and Canada.
After the initial squad selection in April, the Lions lost scrumhalf Tomas O’Leary, centre Tom Shanklin and hooker Jerry Flannery to injuries while flanker Alan Quinlan was banned for 12 weeks for foul play during a European Cup semifinal.
Wales winger Leigh Halfpenny was forced to join the tour late to give him more time to get over a thigh injury but it flared up again and he is being sent home too, along with Ferris and Jones.
Despite all the changes, the Lions have won their first four matches against a Royal XV (37-25), the Golden Lions (74-10), the Cheetahs (26-24) and the Sharks (39-3). – Sapa-AP