The Sharks may have enjoyed an impressive pre-season tour to France while the Southern Kings, their opening opponents in SuperRugby this weekend, endured shambolic preparation, but the KwaZulu-Natal side’s director of rugby, Gary Gold, has warned that the Eastern Cape team should not be taken for granted, especially with Rassie Erasmus consulting for them.
Erasmus and his mobi-unit of top specialists were in Port Elizabeth in January to help Kings coach Deon Davids fast-track their preparations and the word from their camp is that they feel ready to compete. The Sharks will be the first team to test that readiness and Gold said they would be cautious.
“It’s exactly the same situation we had with the Cheetahs last year in our first game, so we do not take the Southern Kings lightly as a team. Deon Davids is a good coach and he would have got great help from Rassie and the mobi-unit. And they’ll be desperate to prove their detractors wrong.
“We have to make sure we don’t slip up like we did against the Cheetahs last year. We’re just trying to stay away from expectations and focus on what we do well. The two games in France have shown us how far we’ve come in certain areas. We had a very clear strategy in our pre-season in terms of how we prepared: We really put time and energy into four or five areas which we hope will have the most effect on the game,” Gold told The Citizen.
The Sharks beat Toulon 29-21 and Toulouse 31-17, but Gold said the results were only of secondary importance to how they played and he was very satisfied with their performance. With the time now available before their first SuperRugby game on Saturday, they will brush up on the areas that have not received as much attention.
“It’s not about the results but the performance and I was very satisfied with the things we worked on, we got reward for those, we’ll bank those, but now it’s time to sharpen the pencil. It’s now time to focus on other areas and we know that if we don’t put time and energy into those then we’ll come a cropper, so those areas will develop.
“We scored five tries and three tries in the two games, so I’m happy with that. Toulon could only score through driving mauls against us, three times, but we hadn’t worked on that yet.
“People ask how we want to play, well, first and foremost we want to win and the foundation for winning is a solid defence. That’s one of the areas where I feel we’ve made good progress, it was a helluva lot more consistent. Defence is where a team shows its camaraderie, whether they’re willing to fight for each other. As a coaching staff, we’re very excited because we’ve put our faith in this young group and they’ve repaid us,” Gold said.