DURBAN - New Sharks flyhalf Robert du Preez jr had an uncanny knack of winning man of the match awards when playing against teams coached by his father, and it is with a grin that he agrees it is time to make amends with his old man.
“It is funny how it worked out that I seemed to always have good games against the Sharks, but that was more coincidence than anything else,” the former Western Province and Stormers flyhalf said.
Last year’s Currie Cup final between the Sharks and WP in Durban is very much a case in point. Du Preez jr controlled the game in the second half to steer Province to a convincing win over a home side coached by his father and featuring his younger brothers.
In a twist of rugby fate, his younger brothers are both out injured for Saturday’s match against the Waratahs and Robert’s team reunion with his brothers will have to wait for a few weeks.
The three played in the same Kearsney College First XV that beat just about all and sundry, but Robert, two years older than his twin brothers, moved to the Cape after two years of playing for the Sharks’ age group teams.
He went to Cape Town on loan to play for Maties in the Varsity Cup but having won the competition’s “Player that Rocks” award, he stayed on at Western Province.
“I grew up so much as a player down in the Cape but it feels really good to be back home where it started for me with the Sharks Under-19s,” he said. “And it is very exciting as a flyhalf to have the quality of backs that are outside me. I have a big responsibility to put those talented guys into space.”
Du Preez is talking about the blend of strength and power in the midfield and the potent finishing of the back three.
“This backline has a strong physical presence at 12 in Andre Esterhuizen with an athlete in Lukhanyo Am outside him and then there is not much more to be said about our finishers at the back (the likes of Sbu Nkosi, Makazola Mapimpi, Lwazi Mvovo and Kobus van Wyk),” Du Preez said.
“There are a lot of tries that can come from this combination. There is so much potential.”
After the Lions defeat, the Sharks had a bye and have had two weeks to prepare for their first home match.
“A lot has been said about where we were lacking in that game (the set scrums) and we have obviously worked hard on fixing that, but there was also a lot of good that we did in that game and we have been focussing on those positives just as much as the negatives,” the 24-year-old said.
“We have two home games before hitting the road (Waratahs and next week the Sunwolves), and it is vitally important that we have a winning platform before going on tour. We want to make Kings Park a fortress as well as having generated momentum before such a difficult tour.”