Waratahs five-eighth Daniel Halangahu has spiced up the atmosphere leading into NSW's crucial game against the Sharks by suggesting that talk of Francois Steyn being injured could be a bluff.
Halangahu has been suspicious of dispatches from the Durban side ever since last year when they said Steyn was under an injury cloud for the Waratahs-Sharks semi-final in Sydney, but eventually played. The NSW pivot was certainly wary when he first heard that Steyn, the 2008 South African Super 14 player of the year, was out for the Waratahs' round 13 clash against the Sharks on Saturday with a knee injury - and according to reports in South Africa could even be sidelined for six to eight weeks.
"I think you have to watch that," he said. "They said that last year, that he was out with a knee injury before they played us. And he ended up playing."
Halangahu also pointed to the mixed signals surrounding the Sharks' biggest star, playmaker Ruan Pienaar, in the build-up to their game against the Highlanders last weekend. "He was named at 10 last week and didn't start," he said. "We'll see who runs out on the day."
Soon after Halangahu spoke, the Sharks produced more surprises as Springboks centre Adrian Jacobs attended training, despite speculation last week that he might need surgery on his injured shoulder and could even be out for three months.
Jacobs's appearance at the Sharks' Monday session certainly surprised local observers. Durban newspaper The Mercury went as far as to say that "he has been miraculously raised from the dead". At the very least, and with halfback Rory Kockott banned for one week after a SANZAR tribunal found him guilty of striking Highlanders breakaway Adam Thomson, uncertainty hovers over the Sharks' back line.
However, the Waratahs won't waste time trying to figure out who will take to the field. "We have recognised certain opportunities for certain players and whoever is playing we will have certain plans against them," Halangahu said. "But we are worrying a lot about ourselves and the way we play."
Halangahu has relished the five consecutive starts he has had in the No.10 jersey, a spell he says "is three more than I have ever had in my four years at the Waratahs".
"I do feel more comfortable," he said. "I am not looking over my shoulder worrying if I am going to get dropped."
He can also face the last two rounds buoyed by knowing his future is secure after his new one-year deal with the Waratahs was finalised this week.
"We have some unfinished business," he said. "We want to win a Super 14, or a couple of Super 14s."
Halangahu is also excited about the new-look Waratahs back line of Kurtley Beale playing one slot out from him at No.12 and Timana Tahu at outside-centre. Because of its success some, including Beale, have lamented the combination was not tried earlier in the season as an alternative attacking option to Tom Carter at No.12. Halangahu would not dwell on that, even believing the side benefited from a new combination this late in the season.
"Teams don't know what to expect from us at the moment, which is a good thing," he said. "A lot of other teams are playing the way they have all season.
"The media and different people [were] telling us how we should have been playing all year. Now we are starting to find what is working for us. You can speculate and say we should have been having this combination all year, but we are not going too bad. And we have won a fair few games using Tom [Carter at 12] and Kurtley at 10 earlier."
However, Halangahu admits that having Beale outside him does help take the pressure off. "I can shift him the ball and then watch him and Timana bamboozle blokes," he said.