Gavin Rich – SuperSport.com
Durban – The Sharks probably couldn’t have asked for a better preparation for a match in Singapore than the drawn warm-up match against the Bulls played in what was reportedly uncomfortable Ballito humidity.
The Sharks and Bulls drew 7-7 at a school ground in the KZN north coastal town, with defences apparently dominating as the two teams completed the preparations for this coming weekend’s opening to the 2019 Super Rugby season.
While the Bulls will host the Stormers in Pretoria in the big match locally, the Sharks start out on the road by playing the Sunwolves in Singapore.
The second Sunwolves home venue has earned itself a notoriety for the humid conditions that tend to prevail there, with matches often resembling a sweat bath. This is exactly what the Ballito game turned out to be.
“The focus is now on the Sunwolves game in Singapore. It will be a tough game for us, so this was a perfect warm-up opportunity for us in terms of the humidity (we can anticipate in Singapore),” Sharks coach Robert du Preez told SuperSport.com.
As he did after the loss to the Lions in Cape Town the week before, Du Preez lamented missed opportunities.
“We did again let a few opportunities slip through our fingers in the second half,” said Du Preez after the game.
“If you get into the opposition 22, then you need to hold onto the ball to keep the pressure on.”
Indeed, and Du Preez will probably note with some consternation that he spent much of last season saying the same thing after games where the Sharks never made full use of their scoring chances. But there is always some rust in the pre-season, and the humidity would up the error-rate, or at least limit the avenues of attack, as it effectively turns a match into a wet weather game. Which in this instance is reflected by the end score.
The big thing for Du Preez is that his players all had at least one solid “hit out” in the pre-season.
“Now everyone has had a chance (to play). We brought in a bigger group of players this year, and it is good to see there is good depth.”
One positive for the Sharks this year is that there appear to be more young players coming through from the age-groups and Du Preez in turn has entrusted them with the responsibility from which experience grows during the build-up phase to Super Rugby.
Young players like Fezeo Mbatha, Kutha Mchunu, Phepsi Buthelezi, Grant Williams and lock JJ van der Mescht, who played in the Cape Town game and impressed when he did so, have all enjoyed game time at some point.