“In my opinion Andre Esterhuizen is the best 12 in the country,” Du Preez said after Esterhuizen’s Man of the Match performance in his team’s 18-13 victory over the Jaguares at the weekend.
“He has been playing great rugby this season. His skill level has improved tremendously.”
The burly, 110kg centre can crash over the advantage line all day long, but has now developed an offloading game thanks to the coaching staff at the Sharks.
He is a brick wall on defence and also has a booming left boot, which has proved useful in the Sharks’ exit strategy.
The Klerksdorp-raised Esterhuizen was in the Leopards system before joining the Sharks Academy and representing SA Under-20 in 2014.
Although still a youngster himself, he is relatively experienced with 35 Super Rugby caps under the belt and he has the responsibility of calling the shots on attack and defence in the youthful Sharks backline.
Du Preez was also full of praise for his forwards, who did not concede an inch against the robust Argentinians.
“That was just about the Pumas pack we played against and our guys got stuck in,” Du Preez said.
“I am very proud of the guys. They showed great character. We expected this type of game (a war of attrition) and we showed determination and resilience. That is very promising.”
Du Preez is spot on. Not every game can be a free-flowing spectacle. Sometimes a team has to show versatility in their approach and find a way to win.
“I don’t think people are aware of how humid it was out there. The ball was very slippery (35 handling errors between the teams),” Du Preez said.
“That made it difficult to play the way we prefer to play and we had to grind it out. I thought it was a fantastic victory.”
It was also a vital one in terms of the Africa Group 2 log.
The Sharks have moved up to 22 points, a point behind leaders the Lions, who have a tough encounter this weekend against the Stormers at Newlands.
The Sharks, who have a bye this week, will have their feet up at home watching that game with interest.
“It has been a difficult seven games in a row and this last week we had 13 guys at the Bok training camp where they had a tough workout.
“The players are really looking forward to this break and then in two weeks we are back at home to face the Rebels,” the coach said.
Du Preez was asked if he had been tempted to bring Curwin Bosch up from fullback to flyhalf in the first half when Inny Radebe was under pressure at No 10.
“Overall I thought Inny did well, he would have learned a lot from this game. He will get better as he plays more,” Du Preez said.