DURBAN – Robert du Preez was in gracious mood shortly after his team had been beaten 35-32 by the Kings in Port Elizabeth on Saturday but there was a significant mood shift from the Sharks coach in an interview on Monday shortly before his team flew out to Singapore to play the Sunwolves.
In short, Du Preez’s congratulatory nod to the Kings for recording their first-ever win against a South African team had given way to anger at his charges.
There was no more praise for the Kings two days after the game but some serious annoyance that the Sharks had not met fire with fire when they had all the warnings in the world that the Kings were going to treat the match as a cup final.
Du Preez intimated that his players knew they were walking into a saloon fight but had not drawn their pistols when the waiting party were firing rounds as soon as the first players were swinging through the doors
“With respect to the Kings, how do you explain a Sharks performance like that?” an angry Du Preez said. “No getting around it, we were poor against the Kings. We got outplayed, outmuscled, and, unfortunately, out-passioned.”
The word “passion” was used by Du Preez in the post-match press conference as being the difference between the sides on the day, and he clearly feels let down by his players that the Kings had passion in abundance and the Sharks could not match it, despite all the pre-match warnings that the PE team were going to throw the kitchen sink at this match.
So why did the Sharks not enter the match in equally fiery mood? Du Preez does not have the answer, because the players were properly prepared.
“With the squad that we have, that result was unacceptable and I am tired of making excuses for the players,” Du Preez said. “That performance was not good enough for a team that has this talent.”
So what went wrong for the Sharks against a Kings team that before would have had problems recognising each other in the pub this season kicked off? They are all players recruited by Saru on short-term contracts to do a job in Super Rugby. None of them are contracted further.
“Individuals in our squad have to have better mental preparation. We had a good week of training. We spoke about the danger of the Kings and what they would bring to the party,” Du Preez said.
“We knew that Port Elizabeth was gearing up for this game and that the Kings would have huge support (20 000) and that it would be a passionate affair, so that having known all these things, why did we not make the step up?"
So this week, the Sharks travel to the Sunwolves, who are Super Rugby cellar dwellers but they will now smell blood in the water.>
“This game has become critical for us,” said an unhappy Du Preez. “The plan that was that we were supposed to beat the Kings and the Sunwolves and be in a momentum phase before our home run of derbies against the Stormers, Bulls and Lions.
“But now we are back to square one, so we need to convincingly beat the Sunwolves to get us properly back on track. This can’t be a just a so-so affair – we need a proper performance to set us up for the three derbies coming up.”
Du Preez will be without his captain and flayhalf, Patrick Lambie, who is going through concussion protocols.
“Hopefully Pat is going to be fine. He failed the concussion test at the game but I spoke to him this morning and he felt much better so hopefully he will ready for the Stormers game,” the coach said.
Du Preez had bad news regarding centre Jeremy Ward, the 2016 SA Under-20 captain, who broke his nose against the Kings, underwent surgery on Monday and will not play again for at least five weeks.
Du Preez will look to Namibian international Johan Deysel to fill that inside centre gap.