DURBAN – Sharks coach Robert du Preez is treating Saturday’s friendly against the Bulls in Ballito as a dress rehearsal for his team’s Super Rugby opener against the Sunwolves in Singapore next Friday.
At the weekend, Du Preez rested a number of players battle-weary from duty in Japan and Europe for the weekend’s #SuperHeroSunday jol with the Lions at the Cape Town Stadium, which allowed coach to blood seven youngsters, most of them from last year’s successful Under-19 team.
The Sharks start the season in an unaccustomed state of good health. The only two pre-season casualties are Jean-Luc Du Preez (out for three months with a groin injury), and now fellow flank Philip van der Walt, who has returned from Japan with a thigh contusion which will see him missing the first three games of Super Rugby.
“The team that will start on Saturday against the Bulls will be the team that starts against the Sunwolves,” Du Preez said. “But we also have another full team in reserve, so everyone that has been involved in our pre-season training will get a run… given what they have all put in, it is only fair to do that.”
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Going back to the Lions game on Sunday, Du Preez said that the most pleasing aspect for him was seeing seven new caps acquit themselves well on debut.
“They came through really well, which is hugely encouraging,” the coach said. “Looking further, we also wanted to see that what we practised in the pre-season could be executed in a game. I felt we created a lot of opportunities and maybe did not finish them all because it was the first match of the season, and there were some nerves.”
Du Preez said that he had been encouraged by his team’s willingness to attack and nodded his head in the direction of new attack coach David Williams, the former Bath and London Irish coach who, in 2016, at his time with the Southern Kings, was responsible for brilliant attacking rugby.
Du Preez said of Williams: “He has brought clarity on attack… each player knows his role in an overall aim to score four or five tries every game… that is what you have to target.”
Speaking of the Sharks’ opener against the Sunwolves, it is serendipitous that it will be a match played in the stifling humidity of the Far East, precisely the conditions the Sharks have been training during pre-season.
“It is a game we will take seriously. We simply have to start our campaign with a win. Conditions will be exactly the same as Durban, so yes we are lucky to have this away game first up,” Du Preez said.
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