Bismarck Du Plessis is recovering from a knee injury, but he'll out of action for a while.

Durban – The good news for the Sharks is that mighty battleship Bismarck du Plessis is firmly on track in recovering from a serious knee injury he sustained last year.

The bad news is that he will only be making his appearance in about the eighth round of the competition, just in time for the renowned Crusaders to slip into to town for a long-awaited visit.

“Generally we are in great shape,” said assistant coach Grant Bashford. “Everyone has been working really hard on their conditioning – the boys are really feeling it at the end of each hard week.

“Unfortunately, we do have a couple of niggles, especially in the front row, although the only major one is Bismarck du Plessis, who will miss some game time.

“We’re now coming towards the end of the pre-season and we’re all looking forward to playing – that warm-up match next week comes at just the right time.”

The Sharks play the Leopards at Woodburn Stadium in Pietermaritzburg next Friday, and then travel to Nelspruit to for a warm-up match against the Pumas on February 15.

Bashford said the team were working hard at their attacking structures, as well as their defensive work.

“We’re getting there from a team perspective and we have some idea of the teams we want to play in the two friendly games. They’re starting to work together as units.

“At this stage, we’re pretty happy with where we are at,” he said. “It’s not just the fact that we have only two new players in Franco van der Merwe and Butch James, but some of the so-called youngsters are into their second and third campaigns of Currie Cup and Super Rugby.

I think, in a tournament like this, you will pick up losses, but it’s about being able to improve each week.

“We need to be consistent so we don’t lose twice in a row and I think that’s where we let ourselves down last year, we got on a losing roll and then had to get onto a really big winning roll to get there.”

The Sharks begin their Super Rugby campaign with a local derby in Bloemfontein against the Cheetahs on February 23, and return to Durban to host the Stormers on March 2.

“For us, it’s all about improving our consistency: it’s no good starting well and finishing badly or the other way around, but that you’re in the race the whole way through, performing week in and week out.” – The Mercury