DURBAN - A week after the emotion of Super Rugby at Ellis Park, the weekend’s immediate downscale to a Currie Cup match against the Pumas was always going to be a game the Sharks simply wanted to get out of the way before properly focusing on the new competition.
“It was a tough week from a few points of view, but we stuck to it and things will get better now the initial transition from one competition to another is out of the way,” coach Robert du Preez admitted after his team had gained maximum log points in beating the Mpumalanga team 29-0.
“Coming off such a big game (the quarter-final against the Lions) and then immediately having to play again was tough and there was the reality that we lost seven players (to Europe and Japan), so there were a few new combinations.”
The Sharks have said farewell to lock Etienne Oosthuizen, scrumhalf Cobus Reinach and prop Lourens Adriaanse (all to Europe, and for good), plus Japan-bound flank Philip van der Walt, lock Stephan Lewies, wing Lwazi Mvovo and centre Andre Esterhuizen (all back for Super Rugby next year), and then prop Coenie Oosthuizen was ineligible for this game because he is a contracted Springbok.
The same would have applied to Boks Beast Mtawarira and Patrick Lambie had they not been injured.
Still, the Sharks put together a decent side for the match and they will get better after the dust settles on the start to the Currie Cup and the competition gains momentum.
“The first half was not good (3-0 at half-time), we made so many errors, but the second half was much better,” Du Preez said.
“I was very pleased with the quality of the four tries we scored, and we kept them out. Keeping them try-less was one of our goals for the day. We did not want to let them score, and that happened.”
Du Preez was asked what he said to his players at half-time.
With an ironic chuckle he said: “I was very calm! I just told the guys to hang onto the ball and not force the errors, and to put phases together. We did that and the tries came.”
The Sharks host Griquas on Friday in what will be a sterner challenge than the Pumas, although the Pumas never gave up and defended well in the first half, especially.