Garth April will be pulling the strings from flyhalf for the Sharks against the Sunwolves. Photo: Muzi Ntombela, BackpagePix

DURBAN – The Sharks have taken their supporters on a rollercoaster ride this season, so it will be interesting to see this afternoon – now that it really matters on the points table – whether they hit a high or a dip.

What are the Sharks of 2017 really made of? Nobody has the foggiest idea, not least of whom their coach Robert du Preez, who has seen his charges deliver magnificent performances and sink into quagmires of despair.

It is true that the Sharks’ coaching staff are on record as saying that this season is the first year of a three-year plan to win titles, but surely a foundation has to be laid in year one.

You can’t be exceptional against the Lions in Johannesburg and then hopeless against the Rebels in Durban in the space of a fortnight.

The Sharks were, in fact, deserving of a victory in round one when they perhaps did not have the self-belief to beat the Reds in Brisbane.

It was a game they should have won (26-28 to the Queenslanders) and they responded with compelling performances to register back-to-back wins against the Brumbies (away) and the Waratahs (home), before going AWOL against the Kings in Durban, a match the Eastern Cape team deserved to win, but lost 19-17.

The Sharks ground out wins against the Jaguares (commendable in Buenos Aires) and the Force (an unconvincing arm wrestle in Durban), and then did not have the hunger to beat the Kings last week.

But Du Preez’s argument with his players is that good teams do not get “out-passioned”, as he puts it, by teams that are not of their calibre.

In other words, right now, the Sharks are not a good team – certainly not one of being able to sit at the top table with the big boys.

So, let’s see what they do today (1.55pm kickoff SA time) against a Sunwolves team that have won once – against the Bulls in Singapore – in 10 matches.

As Du Preez puts it: “If you play for the Sharks, sub-standard performances cannot be tolerated. We’ve spoken a lot about what it means to play for the Sharks, about pride in the jersey.

“We’re looking for the guys to make a huge step-up after a very disappointing game against the Kings.

“This is a game against the Sunwolves where nothing but every individual’s best will be good enough.”

The Sunwolves, in their second season of Super Rugby, have had an interesting season. They started off crashing 83-17 to the Hurricanes in Week 1 and lost to the Crusaders 50-3 in Week 8.

But outside of those two horrible defeats, they have been competitive in pushing the Cheetahs, Stormers and Chiefs, and beat the Bulls.

Despite propping up the log with seven points, two weeks ago they were competitive in their away match against the Jaguares, narrowly losing 46-39.

“This is a team with a lot of talent, but the players need to step up and play to their potential,” Du Preez said. “There can’t be any excuses anymore. We need to convert every opportunity we get. The boys are up for the challenge; they need to do it for themselves, they need to do it for the union, and they need to do it for the fans.”

Sharks Team

Lwazi Mvovo, Kobus van Wyk, Lukhanyo Am, Johan Deysel, S’busiso Nkosi, Garth April, Cobus Reinach, Daniel du Preez, Jean-Luc du Preez, Philip van der Walt (captain), Stephan Lewies, Ruan Botha, Lourens Adriaanse, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Thomas du Toit.

Bench: Franco Marais, Tendai Mtawarira, John-Hubert Meyer, Etienne Oosthuizen, Tera Mtembu, Rowan Gouws, Benhard Janse van Rensburg, S’bura Sithole.