Head coach of the Cell C Sharks, Robert du Preez, gave his team the thumbs-up following their pre-season clash with the Lions in Cape Town during the Super Hero Sunday double-header.
In a game very much of two halves, the Cell C Sharks were under pressure in the first 40, but the second half saw sustained periods of exciting, attacking rugby, although frustratingly unable to close out the many opportunities created.
“We battled to exit in the first half which didn’t help our cause, but in the second half we had a lot of territory and possession and created many opportunities,” was the coach’s assessment of the match against the Lions.
“It was a typical first hit-out and all-in-all, I was pleased with how it went. Apart from a period in the first half, I was pleased with our scrums, they went well, as did our lineouts.”
He did enthuse about the ocassion, saying: “The venue was fantastic, the concept too, the fact that there were over 50 000 people watching was amazing. The players loved it too.”
Looking at the match in context with the Vodacom Super Rugby season ahead, again he was positive.
“I’m pleased with where we are,” he said. “There were 11 youngsters who played for the Cell C Sharks for the first time today which was good. It’s great to give them the confidence of playing at this level.”
Although Thomas du Toit injured his ankle during the course of the week and didn’t travel with the team, du Preez happily confirmed that there were no injury concerns to come out of this match.
“All good, that’s pleasing that there were no injuries.”
The next match is another warm-up, this time against the Vodacom Bulls who narrowly lost to the Stormers in Sunday’s second match. The match takes place at Ashton College in Ballito on Saturday, 9th February. Kickoff is at 14h00.
“We will have a squad of 30 players for the game against the Bulls, we want to give the 25 players who will travel to play the Sunwolves in our opening Vodacom Super Rugby match a run, in fact give them the bulk of the game time. So most of those guys will feature – the likes of Rob du Preez, Andre Esterhuizen, Coenie Oosthuizen, Ruan Botha, Beast Mtawarira.”
Although it might be seen as disruptive not to have played those established Cell C Sharks players against the Lions, there is always a bright side to this. “It was good to give the youngsters a chance, an opportunity to develop them,” said du Preez. “These pre-season games give us that chance.”
Captain Louis Schreuder was also full of praise for his young team, despite going down to the Lions.
“While the result didn’t go our way, I’ve very happy for the young guys who got a hit-out, I thought they did very well,” he said.
“Also that there weren’t any injuries; there are often one or two big injuries in these preseason games – I had one last year. We’re happy that everyone is fit and healthy.
“We can take a lot of positives out of this game.”