Sharks to skip Neo Africa ties

2012-01-07 00:00

THE Sharks have turned down an invitation to join the Stormers and the Lions in the traditional Neo Africa Tri-Series at Newlands at the end of the month.

The Sharks have played in this triangular tournament over the last couple of years, joining the Stormers and first the Western Force (in 2010) and then the Lions (2011) in a series of matches ahead of the Super Rugby season.

Sharks assistant coach Hugh Reece-Edwards told The Witness yesterday that the Sharks had opted for a less strenuous series of warm-up games ahead of the marathon Super Rugby season.

“We will play Boland and the Eastern Province Kings over two weekends early in February. Playing in the Newlands triangular involved playing two games [against the Lions and the Stormers] in four days at the end of this month.

“We think it will be more beneficial to our planning and preparation to spread the games over two weekends, particularly this early in the season and with a long year ahead of us.”

Reece-Edwards said the Stormers had been told last year of the Sharks’ decision not to travel to Newlands, but Cape Town reports still have the Sharks down to play the Lions on January 31 and the Stormers on February 4.

“I believe the Cheetahs are taking our place in Cape Town. We are looking at playing a trial game before meeting the EP Kings in Port Elizabeth. We hope to have the Boland friendly in Durban.”

The Sharks players returned to the training field on Wednesday after their Christmas break and Reece-Edwards said there was “tremendous excitement and enthusiasm in the squad”.

“The players have all been physically assessed and everyone is happy,” he said.

“We now have training every day and we will work hard this month before the friendlies. There is a really good mix to the squad with a large number of experienced players and some fantastic youth.”

A number of senior Sharks players underwent surgery immediately after the Currie Cup final and are still involved with the rehabilitation squad, he said.

“We have players like Willem Alberts and Jean Deysel still doing rehab after surgery. We hope they will be ready for the Super Rugby opener on February 24 [against the Bulls at Loftus], but we certainly won’t rush them back.”

Players who had missed the final weeks of the Currie Cup, scrumhalf Charl McLeod, centre Meyer Bosman and Louis Ludik, are all back at training.

“We reached the Super Rugby quarters last year and we are determined to improve on that,” Reece-Edwards said.

“There won’t be dramatic changes, but we will have to tweak some things and change others to reach our objective,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Sharks Ticket Office opens next week (January 10) for season ticket renewals for the 2012 season. The season ticket is valid for all home games in the Super Rugby and the Currie Cup competitions, any play-offs and the Springboks’ Test against England in June.

The Sharks first home Super Rugby game is against the Currie Cup champions, the Lions, on Saturday, March 10.

Sharks’ Super Rugby fixtures in 2012 (home team first):

Bulls vs Sharks, Feb 24 (Fri).

Stormers vs Sharks, March 3 (Sat).

Sharks vs Lions, March 10 (Sat).

Sharks vs Reds, March 17 (Sat).

Waratahs vs Sharks, March 24 (Sat).

Brumbies vs Sharks, March 31 (Sat).

Hurricanes vs Sharks, April 6 (Fri).

Blues vs Sharks, April 13 (Fri).

Sharks vs Chiefs, April 21 (Sat).

Week 10 Sharks bye (April 28).

Sharks vs Huighlanders, May 5 (Sat).

Sharks vs Force, May 12 (Sat).

Cheetahs vs Sharks, May 19 (Sat).

Sharks vs Stormers, May 26 (Sat).

Lions vs Sharks, June 2 (Sat).

Week 19, Sharks bye (June 30).

Sharks vs Bulls, July 7 (Sat).

Sharks vs Cheetahs, July 14 (Sat).

July 21, quarter-final.

July 28, semi-finals.

August 4, final.

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