Sharks braced for a Blues day at Kings Park
We can't be up for a Kiwi game and down for an Aussie game‚ says flyhalf Robert du Preez
To whom much is given‚ much is expected and after their legendary antics against the New Zealand franchises in 2018‚ the Sharks have a heavy burden on their shoulders.
To say the Sharks were adequate against New Zealand sides last season is selling them short.
They were more than exemplary‚ especially when their inconsistency tended to manifest itself against the Australian teams.
They beat the Blues‚ Highlanders and the Chiefs. They lost narrowly to the Hurricanes but they were predictably beaten by the Crusaders in the quarterfinals.
Disappointingly‚ they drew with the Waratahs while they were well beaten by the Rebels and Brumbies.
Flyhalf Robert du Preez was in the belly of the results beast in 2018 when the Durban side asked questions the New Zealand teams had difficulty answering‚ only for the Australian sides to crack the Sharks code with remarkable ease.
It was the Blues who blinked first against the Sharks in 2018 but Du Preez is wise enough to understand that the windfall of 2018’s big win in Auckland will not repeat itself at Kings Park.
Under Leon McDonald‚ the Blues have a better semblance of structure and defence. They were also unfortunate to lose to the Crusaders at home last week.
“The opposition does bring the best out of you because we didn’t have a specific plan. Those were the Kiwi sides and we knew those were going to be really big games.
“However‚ we need to change our mindset around that because we can’t be up for a Kiwi game and down for an Aussie game. All games are the same and there aren’t any easy games‚” Du Preez said.
“We’ll look to build on what we did last year but it’s a new team‚ it’s a new year and they’ve made some new signings.”
The Blues also have legendary powerhouse All Black centre Ma’a Nonu in their ranks and the two-time World Cup winner was at ease in last week’s thriller at Eden Park.
Being a flyhalf‚ Du Preez will have plenty of Nonu traffic in his defensive lane but that is part of the problem he and the Sharks midfield backs will have to deal with.
There is also Sonny-Bill Williams and the up-and-coming TJ Faiane to deal with but the Sharks have Andre Esterhuizen and Lukhanyo Am as their effective first-choice midfield pairing.
Du Preez is not overawed by the presence of All Blacks in the Blues’ backline.
“He’s an experienced campaigner and he’s still got a lot of good rugby in him. He’s physical with ball in hand and he’s physical on defence so I’m looking forward to the prospect of playing against him‚” Du Preez said.
“That’s where we need to start to worry about thinking about ourselves and not too much about them. We’ve got more than enough in our arsenal to handle whatever they throw at us.
“When there’s a team with big names‚ you have to worry about yourself and I think that’s what we’re going to do.”