Sharks target top-six finish
August 19, 2010
New signing Paul Williams is set for action in the Sharks' pre-season clash with Glasgow on Friday night © Getty Images
Sale head coach Mike Brewer has set his sights on a top-six finish in this season's Aviva Premiership with the added bonus of Heineken Cup qualification.
The Sharks were crowned Premiership champions in 2006 but have struggled to hit those heights since and even flirted with the prospect of relegation last season. Finishing second-bottom above relegated Worcester underlined their plight but new boss Brewer has steadied the ship and presided over a major overhaul of his squad during the summer.
On the eve of the new campaign, the former New Zealand captain, 45, said, "Our objective for the season is to finish in the top six and that's based on qualifying for the Heineken Cup. If you're playing rugby union in Europe, then you've got to be playing in the Heineken Cup as far as revenue streams, crowds and the opposition you are coming up against are concerned.
"Players want to come up against the likes of Toulouse, Munster and Leicester. I'm not happy, but I'm comfortable with being in the Amlin Challenge Cup this year.
"We're a new squad and the focus this year is on the Premiership, although the likes of our England boys Charlie Hodgson, Mark Cueto and Andrew Sheridan don't want to be out of Europe's top competition for too long. They want to playing against the big boys."
Transition will again be the watchword at Edgeley Park this season as Brewer looks to mould his new arrivals into a respected force. The Kiwi arrived towards the end of last season as replacement for Jason Robinson and carried out an audit of the squad upon his arrival. He swiftly came to the conclusion a number of players were simply not good enough.
He has since conducted a clean sweep, with the number of departures and new recruits both well into double figures and with Brewer leaving nobody in any doubt as to who is running the show.
Director of rugby Kingsley Jones will be responsible for long-term squad planning and the academy and player development, leaving Brewer in charge of all first-team rugby matters.
"Will more players be leaving? They certainly will be and that's being handled at the moment by the club, the players and their representatives," added Brewer. "By the time we start the season on September 3 at home to Newcastle, we will have a squad of about 38 or 39 players. Change was needed here. Not change for the sake of it but because the squad lacked penetration, power and back-up in certain areas."
Brewer's recruitment drive is not over yet, either. "I want an openside flanker I need to find," he said. "I'm talking with a South African Super 14/Currie Cup player at the moment but I'm 98% there at the moment in terms of being ready for the season."
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