Sharks look to continue where they left off at Eden Park in 2018

DURBAN – Last season, the Sharks had an exceptional record against the New Zealand Super Rugby teams, but flyhalf Robert du Preez insists there was no specific reason why they cracked the Kiwi code and that Saturday’s encounter with the Blues at Kings Park will be no different to any other game.

In 2018 the Sharks lost in injury time to the Hurricanes in Wellington but beat the Highlanders, Chiefs and Blues, putting 63 points past the latter at Eden Park a week after having copped a hiding from the Rebels in Melbourne.

Last year we didn’t have a special plan against the New Zealand teams,” Du Preez said. “We obviously just knew they were big games and the best teams bring out the best in you. And we have learned from last year in that we have to change our mindset we can’t be up for a Kiwi team one week and then down for an Aussie team the next. All games are the same and none of them are easy.”

And the Blues are a very different proposition this year under new coach Leon MacDonald. Last week, they would have beaten the champion Crusaders had a few last-minute shots at goal been on target. For one thing, the Blues have a new inside centre in the legendary Ma’a Nonu, who will cut a blockbusting presence opposite Du Preez and who will have a formidable midfield partnership with another All Black great, Sonny Bill Williams.

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“Ma’a is an experienced campaigner and has lots of good rugby still left in him (at 36). He is so physical on both attack and defence,” Du Preez said.

“They have great centres.”

“But we have more than enough in our arsenal to deal with whatever they throw at us. Against teams with big names, you have to concentrate on yourself more than ever. We will be doing that this week, focussing on our processes and what we can do to them.”

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Andre Esterhuizen of the Sharks drives the ball against Sunwolves’ Hayden Parker and Rahboni Warren Vosayaco in Singapore. Photo: EPA/Wallace Woon

That plan will not deviate too much from the one that saw the Sharks thump the Sunwolves in Singapore. The Sharks mixed brutal forward physicality with precise backline play to put 45 points past the Sunwolves.

“Our plan against the Sunwolves was always to be very physical and direct, to wear them out and then attack with the backs,” Du Preez said.

“It started in the front row and the forwards had an outstanding game and that is why the backs could score some nice tries. We left three of four tries out there, but that is just growing pains for this time of the season.”

Du Preez had an excellent match at flyhalf and delivered a faultless performance off the kicking tee.

“I was happy with my game,” he said.


The Mercury

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