Another tough test

2019-04-30 15:25
Robert du Preez (Gallo Images)

Robert du Preez (Gallo Images)

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The Sharks’ Super Rugby victory over the Waratahs at the weekend provided a big reason for the Durban franchise to smile, but there is really no time for them to celebrate with another giant task ahead of them this week.

The Sharks kicked off their three-week Down Under tour with a 23-15 win in Australia and now they move to Christchurch in New Zealand for their “mission impossible” against the mean-looking Crusaders at AMI Stadium at 9.35 am this Friday.

The victory for the Sharks provided a huge relief for coach Robert du Preez who was heavily criticised by the franchise’s legend, Tony Watson, last week.

Watson, who reckons Du Preez is not the right man for the job, said in an open letter the team had been in free fall for almost two seasons.

The away win also took Du Preez’s charges to the top of the very congested South African conference and second on the overall log with 26 points after 10 outings.

Watson’s scathing comments came after the team lost two back-to-back matches to the Jaguares and Reds at King’s Park and the fact the team had lost four matches in a row at home, so Du Preez really needed breathing space ahead of the menacing Crusaders.

The Crusaders are not just the defending Super Rugby champions, but they are the best team in the competition with nine titles to their name.

In this year’s campaign, the Kiwis have played a total of 10 matches with eight victories, one defeat and a draw.

That superb run has allowed the Crusaders a chance to sit at the summit of the overall standings comfortably with 39 points.

Du Preez will be hoping that his players will again produce a game with minimal errors — which has been the main problem in their recent struggles — and be on their level best when it comes to execution, like they did against the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday.

“The Waratahs are a really good team, we saw what happened last week when they defeated the Rebels. They are very dangerous but our intention was to get the upper hand upfront.

“I think the boys were outstanding, I think the forwards were magnificent too,” said Du Preez.

“It was massive win for us. In the game against the Reds we created a lot of opportunities, there were some try-scoring opportunities that we didn’t take.

“It’s been a story of our season, creating opportunities but not converting them. And we let in two soft tries against the Reds but we had a very good week in Sydney and the boys were very keen to come away with a win.”

The coach has another tough call to make on whether he continues with Curwin Bosch, who gave an outstanding performance at the weekend, at flyhalf or he brings back his son, Robert du Preez junior.

“Curwin played really well. We will see whether he starts next game, we will take one game a time,” he said.

Meanwhile, All Blacks prop Owen Franks will be out of action for at least another four weeks as he recovers from a small tear in his shoulder, the Crusaders said on Monday.

The 31-year-old, however, is not expected to require surgery and should be fit again for the tail end of the Super Rugby season.

Franks, a cornerstone of the All Blacks scrum since he made his debut in 2009, was injured in the Crusaders’ 36-14 victory over the ACT Brumbies on April 6.

In another development, the Sanzaar Foul Play Review Committee have accepted a guilty plea from Waratahs lock Jed Holloway for contravening Law 9.12 (A player must not physically abuse anyone) after he was red carded against the Sharks in Parramatta on Saturday.

Holloway has been suspended from all forms of the game for three weeks, up to and including May 18.

The incident occurred in the 45th minute of the match played at Bankwest Stadium.

 

FIXTURES

Friday

Crusaders v Sharks — 9.35 am

Reds v Sunwolves — 11.45 am

Saturday

Hurricanes v Rebels — 7.15 am

Highlanders v Chiefs — 9.35 am

Brumbies v Blues — 11.45 am

Bulls v Waratahs — 3.05 pm

Jaguares v Stormers — 9.45 pm

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  sharks rugby
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