Cell C Sharks head coach Robert du Preez admitted on the eve of our team’s departure to Australia that narrowing down his 45-man Vodacom Super Rugby squad into a 27-man touring squad was not easy.
Despite a rigorous programme of preseason training, the players in our squad have all put in hundreds of hours of work and shown great commitment, as well as pushing hard for places.
“It was difficult because a lot of guys have done well in the preseason and it’s tough to have to leave some guys behind, but they will get an opportunity along the line,” he explained.
Like assistant coach Sean Everitt, our captain Pat Lambie admitted that having French international Clement Poitrenaud in the mix is a huge bonus for the team.
“It’s been really good having Clement in the mix, he’s fitted in well and is very popular with the whole squad. He’s found the preseason going tough, I think we all have, but he’s managed to get through it with flying colours. He brings a lot of value in terms of his experience, he’s a very skilful player and we can all learn a lot from him. It’s been fantastic to have him around.”
Starting our campaign on the road is rare but hooker Franco Marais admitted that everyone is quite excited about it.
“It’s excellent to get the tour behind us, the fact that we’re on the road so early means we’re still fresh and eager to travel.”
Aside from the Reds in the first match, our team will travel from Brisbane to Canberra to take on the Brumbies in our second tour clash before returning home. Du Preez admitted that they have very specific aims.
“We would like to win both games! It’s definitely about improving on the previous two games [the warm-up matches against the Cheetahs and a Bulls XV], we want to concentrate on our processes and if we get two wins out of the tour, that will be fantastic.”
Discipline is something the players have spoken about, as a group and Lambie explained how important a focus it is for our team.
“In the warm-up game against the Cheetahs, our discipline did let us down; it’s a non-negotiable and neither the coaching staff nor the senior players are going to tolerate anyone not keeping their cool or shows ill-discipline. We expect a lot of needle which is what you get between South African, Australian and New Zealand sides.
“The Reds will be raring to go. They’ve assembled a really good squad this season. Playing at home they will want to start well, we will have our work cut out for us but it’s important that we remain calm, play hard but fair, maintain our discipline and get the results.”
The way the competition is structured, last year we played only New Zealand sides, this year it is only Australian teams during the pool stages, something our captain said was an interesting feature of the tournament.
“It will be interesting to see how this side of the draw works, we’re looking forward to playing the Australian sides after not meeting any of them last year. Some might say this is the easier draw, but Vodacom Super Rugby is one of the toughest competitions in the world; the longevity makes it extremely challenging. Add the travel to that and the fact that there aren’t any easy games anymore.
“We’ll be taking it one week at a time.”