DURBAN – At Eden Park on Saturday the TV cameras often panned to the Sharks’ coaching staff, where a deadpan Robert du Preez showed no emotion, but he has said from Wellington that one should not judge a book by its cover.
The question was put to him: “When you see your sons Robert and Jean-Luc playing out of their skins, can you remain in a strictly coaching perspective or do fatherly emotions creep in?”
He would not be human if they did not. Robert scored 38 points, including an immaculate 13 out of 13 shots at goal, while Jean-Luc was a firebrand in the pack.
“They gave a bit extra and played really well. As a dad it was emotional for me to see them making a big impact, so I was very proud of them,” Du Preez admitted.
In other words it would be unrealistic for a coach of star players to not experience pride and pleasure in his sons’ contribution to the winning of the game.
“Let’s talk about what the win meant to the squad,” Du Preez said. “The boys were hurting after the first two weeks and were really desperate to get their first win on tour. I was confident we would beat the Blues because I felt the guys were in the right mental space.
“There had been no worries from the coaching staff about the effort of the guys in the defeats to the Brumbies and Rebels. It is why we emphasised all week that the effort had to be allied to accuracy. You can play your hearts out but if you make elementary errors you will probably lose.”
A Sharks tactic was to abandon the trend of kicking penalties to the corners and not at posts.
“We decided to take every point on offer in an effort to build scoreboard pressure. What was also important is that when we got into their 22, we often scored. Our conversion rate was 75 percent, and the good start (13-0) gave us the chance to build momentum.”
Now the Sharks travel to the south of the North Island of New Zealand to play arguably the best performing team in the competition, the Hurricanes.
“We know they are going to be tougher than the Blues, they have been the No 1 team in NZ for a while,” Du Preez said.
“We cannot dwell on our great result against the Blues. The competition has shown us that if you are off your game, you can cop 50 points. It happened to us against the Rebels, who then got 50 from the Hurricanes last week. We did it to the Blues but that does not mean we will beat the Hurricanes...
“What this game means to us is that our defence has to be top drawer. We have given away too many soft tries and too many yellow cards. Defence and discipline are a massive focus in this game. Although our discipline was good in that we only gave away six penalties against the Blues, we did concede a yellow card, and they scored two tries while we were a man down.”