Despite a five try to two, 31-14 defeat of the Vodacom Bulls in the Cell C Sharks’ first match of the year, a pre-season friendly game over the weekend, head coach Robert du Preez has admitted that there is still some hard work before the commencement of the Vodacom Super Rugby tournament.
The Cell C Sharks will travel to Johannesburg to play the Emirates Lions in our opening Vodacom Super Rugby match on Saturday 17 February, but we will play one more warm-up match ahead of the competition, when we take on Racing 92 in a Natixis Cup match in Hong Kong this Saturday, 3rd February.
The team come off the high of a strong showing against the Vodacom Bulls, but the coach admits that nothing should be read into the result. It was never about winning or losing – although victory does instil confidence that the team is on the right track.
Instead, the match was an opportunity to gauge exactly where the team is at this stage of the pre-season programme, and which area the players need to work on.
“The game against the Vodacom Bulls was exactly what we needed, to see where we are from a conditioning point of view, but also to check on the areas we worked hard on during the pre-season,” explained coach Robert du Preez.
“I am pleased about our individual skill work and where we are at, at this stage. But in saying that we are still far from where we want to be, and this is going to be on-going work for us.”
He admitted that the side is a work in progress at this stage. No team starts the season peaking, but rather works towards playing better rugby incrementally week by week, until they’re ready to peak.
“Obviously, with this being our first game of the season, we were a bit scrappy at times, but we are happy with our first outing.”
Racing are currently riding a wave of success, having defeated Castres 18-13 on the weekend which pushed them into second place in the French Top 14. The previous week, they defeated Leicester 23-20 in the Champions Cup, following on from a 34-30 win over Munster the week before.
“We want to show improvement in our next warm-up match against Racing 92, which is going to be a very tough encounter against a very strong team that they have assembled.”
The match kickoff at 16h00 (Hong Kong time) and at this stage will not be televised in South Africa.