Super Rugby is on hold in June for the Southern Hemisphere international window, which for the Springboks means a home series against France, with Test matches in Pretoria (June 10), Durban (June 17) and Johannesburg (June 24).
The Sharks had to beat the Stormers to remain with a chance of a (possible) quarter-final in South Africa (against the Lions), but in July they also have to beat the Bulls and the Lions in derbies at Kings Park after the series against France.
In short, the Sharks are still in with a vague chance of winning the Super Rugby title, but as long as they keep winning and improving their performance to stay in the mix.
With that in mind, Du Preez is hopeful that his team’s victory over the Stormers in the weekend’s cross-conference match showed that they can beat the best in South Africa.
“We spoke all week about out-passioning the Stormers, and I think we did,” Du Preez said on Saturday night. “The question is why did it take us until week 13 for us to turn on the performance that we did against the Stormers, and the truth is I can’t answer you, other than to suggest that we are a team building to a long-term goal (the Sharks are in year one of a three-year plan with a reasonably young group of players).
“I just think that the last seven minutes against the Sunwolves two weeks ago (the Sharks scored three tries at the end of that match in Singapore) turned our season around, and the guys were fantastic tonight,” Du Preez said.
“We had a big step up in intent on both attack and defence.”
The talk of the town on Saturday night was 2016 SA Under-20 wing Sbu Nkosi, who scored the game-breaking try three quarters of the way through the match. It was a solo try that came just after the Stormers had scored and were threatening to take the initiative in the game. But Nkosi came in off his blindside wing to take a pass and scamper 45m to the posts.
“Sbu was really good tonight, his work was rate was unbelievable, and he has a huge future ahead of him,” Du Preez said.
“I think a big difference for us is that at last we're more clinical in our finishing in the opposition danger zone, after a whole season of fluffing chances near the line,” a relieved Du Preez said.
“There was time in the second half when we were marginally ahead on the scoreboard and I was yelling for the guys to take the three points on offer from a penalty but (they did not hear me) and the quick tap penalty was taken and Stephan (Lewies) went over,” Du Preez said.
“So sometimes you just have to back the players to make the decision and I applaud them for going that route because the intent was positive.”