Sharks expect stern test against French club

2015-02-05 00:00

SHARKS fans may have to stay up late tonight to catch their team in action in France but the spectacle might just be worth facing a groggy Friday morning.

The Durban outfit take on European giants Toulon in their only pre-season friendly before Super Rugby kicks off next week. It is hard to pick out a winner on paper but victory is not the main aim, according to director of rugby Gary Gold.

“It will be the first really competitive game of the season. Obviously we’re ­talking about a team who have already qualified for the European Champions Cup and are halfway through the French Top 14 season,” Gold said from their base in the South of France.

“They’ll be more prepared than us and more game ready but that’s a good ­challenge. It’s why we want to be here — to test ourselves under pressure.”

A number of Springboks missing from the Sharks line-up provides an opportunity for younger players and new faces to make strong statements ahead of a long Super Rugby campaign — where squad depth will no doubt be questioned.

With Springboks Willem Alberts, ­Jannie du Plessis, Frans Steyn and JP ­Pietersen not in France, players like Monde Hadebe, Dale Chadwick, Renaldo Bothma and Tera Mtembu have a chance to prove their worth.

“It’s an unbelievable opportunity for the young guys who have been through the preseason and put in the hard work. It’s going to be exciting to see how far they’ve come and what areas we still need to work and improve on,” Gold said.

All 26 players in the match day squad are expected to have a run out tonight and Gold wants to see the sort of intensity his charges showed last week in their pre-season hit-out against Durban clubs College Rovers and Collegians.

“We want to keep that high intensity and get through the things we have been practising. We have 26 guys here and at one stage or another we’ll be giving them all a bit of a run and a reward for the hard work they put into the preseason.”

Considering the fact Toulon sit atop the Top 14 log and boast a number of internationals in their ranks, the Sharks face a highly competitive outfit. There are a number of South Africans in the French club’s ranks, which will also mix things up.

“Because of the South African connection and the individuals they have, there is no doubt they will be highly ­competitive. It’s an opportunity for them to feature some fringe a little bit of a run. There is a lot to play for from their point of view, but I am just happy we are playing such a quality team — it’s really going to test us.”

No matter the result, Gold said he was impressed with the work done while he was still coaching in Japan. The Sharks were put through their paces by Brendan Venter and the coaching group over the holiday season.

But tonight’s clash will be an entirely different affair against some of the top professional players in the world. A good, clinical performance from the Sharks is first prize and a victory will be the cherry on top.

Kickoff at 10 pm on Supersport 1.

Sharks: SP Marais, S’bura Sithole, Waylon Murray, ­Heimar Williams, Lwazi Mvovo, Pat Lambie, Cobus ­Reinach, Tera Mtembu, Renaldo Bothma, Marcell ­Coetzee, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Mouritz Botha, Matt ­Stevens, Bismarck du Plessis (c), Tendai Mtawarira. ­Replacements: Kyle Cooper, Dale Chadwick, Lourens Adriaanse, Monde Hadebe, Marco Wentzel, Etienne Oosthuizen, Andre Esterhuizen, Paul Perez, Odwa Ndungane, Conrad Hoffmann, Fred Zeilinga.

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