DURBAN – On Sunday the Sharks flew out to Australia for their three-match Super Rugby tour and, no doubt, they would have been thrilled to depart the doom and gloom of Durban for the sanctuary of Sydney.
The pressure on the Sharks has been cranked up inordinately after two heavy home defeats; there has been merciless vilification on social media and the players and coaching staff have had to duck for cover.
So the change of scenery provided by this tour could not have come at a better time for Robert du Preez and his charges. The coach knows that tours provide fertile ground for bonding because the players live in each other’s pockets and have no outside distractions.
They will have all the time in the world to thrash out what has gone wrong in a season that started promisingly with two bright wins over the Sunwolves and Blues but has unravelled of late with four home defeats.
“We go on a three-week tour now and sometimes that can be really good for a team in terms of building camaraderie,” Du Preez said after his team had lost 21-14 to the Reds.
“We obviously need a massive game on Saturday against the Waratahs but I certainly believe we can turn it around. I know we have what it takes.”
The coach acknowledged that the pressure is mounting.
“When you lose four games at home it’s obviously not great, especially for the fans, but for all of us,” Du Preez said. “But there is a positive feeling in the change room and it’s a big step up from last week.”
Many a Sharks fan would disagree that the performance was an improvement on the loss to the Jaguares the week before but they would agree with the coach that the players showed greater commitment.
You can’t fault them for effort today (against the Reds),” Du Preez said.
“We created a lot of opportunities, and I think we just couldn’t execute them. In those first 20 minutes we gave away two really soft tries and I think that came back to bite us in the end.”
Regarding fixing the crippling handling errors, Du Preez said: “Patience ... that is the answer. With ball in hand we have to be more patient.”
Du Preez has taken 16 forwards and 11 backs on tour. The tour opener will be in the Sydney suburb of Parramatta against the Waratahs, before the team heads over to New Zealand to take on the Crusaders and the Chiefs.
The Sharks touring squad is:
Forwards: Akker van der Merwe, Coenie Oosthuizen, Daniel du Preez, Hyron Andrews, Jacques Vermeulen, Jean-Luc du Preez, John-Hubert Meyer, Kerron van Vuuren, Luke Stringer, Mzamo Majola, Philip van der Walt, Ruan Botha, Ruben van Heerden, Tendai Mtawarira, Thomas du Toit, Tyler Paul
Backs: Andre Esterhuizen, Aphelele Fassi, Cameron Wright, Curwin Bosch, Kobus van Wyk, Louis Schreuder, Lukhanyo Am, Makazole Mapimpi, Marius Louw, Robert du Preez, Sbu Nkosi.