Robert du Preez is not prone to bouts of gushing, but he stopped tantalisingly short in running the rule over the performance of debutant wing Sibusiso Nkosi against the Western Force.
The left wing proved a handful in the Sharks’ 37-12 victory at Kings Park.
"I’m very happy‚" the Sharks’ coach said about Nkosi’s performance. "He’s a guy who has impressed us in pre-season. He is very dedicated. I thought he had a very good first Super Rugby game.
"His work rate was phenomenal and he defended really well. He made the right decisions. It was a good start for him."
Du Preez quickly reminded him‚ however‚ that his squad has a pecking order.
"We’ve got other wings waiting. We’ve got Lwazi [Mvovo] and Odwa [Ndungane]. It is a good problem to have."
Nkosi was not the only tyro to shine.
"Jeremy Ward was good‚" Du Preez said. "Him and Lukhanyo [Am] are forming a good centre combination. I’ve always said that the guys on the fringes or in the bigger squad get the opportunity to play. Those who have‚ have done well."
While Du Preez’s younger personnel have the benefit of developing in a winning environment‚ the Force’s newbies have to do so in the face of adversity. "We have a very young team and we are missing eight or nine players who started the season with us‚" said Force coach Dave Wessels.
"Almost half our group has never been on a Super Rugby tour before.
"I’m pretty disappointed with the outcome but I recognise that we are on a journey and as frustrated as I am I think the team has played pretty well over the last couple of months. We need to focus on getting exposure across the wider group so that when some of the more recognised players come back into the squad we’ve come away with more experience and we’ll be better off for it.
"We have a young group most of whom are under 23. It’s a good challenge for the younger guys. Some of them put their hand up and others battled a little bit."
The team has the added distraction of potentially being booted out of Super Rugby next season and it is casting a pall over Australia’s less established franchises. "It is a difficult thing that is hanging over our head‚" said Wessels.
"The players have families‚ I have two kids, and the uncertainty is hard. We are not sure whether we are going to have a job at the end of all of this.
"It is a credit to the players that right throughout the season with a young team we have put up a good fight. My vision for the team is in 18 months to be consistently competitive.
"We are not good enough to be that yet. That’s our plan. The exposure the guys are getting now coming to the Shark Tank‚ they are only going to be better when they come back."
If the Force are to leave Super Rugby they will do so in the knowledge they have thrown everything at it.
"Our board has been fantastic as well as the community of Western Australia‚" said Wessels. "It’s been pretty special actually. I think in one of our recent home games we had one of the biggest crowds in Australia this year.
"The people are really getting behind the team. What you are seeing from the team is that they are trying to make the Western Australians proud. We are playing for them."