Gold hails Venter's impact
Durban - Although Director of Rugby Gary Gold was finishing up his Japanese club commitments while the Cell C Sharks were undergoing a strenuous pre-season, the team was in great hands under Brendan Venter and the coaching staff.
“The feedback I was getting from Brendan while overseas was absolutely fantastic,” Gold explains.
“He reported how incredibly hard the guys were working.
“They had a bit of a run out last week against two club sides which was hugely successful, more so in the attitude they guys showed than in the results. They showed that they are very well organised, very well prepared and very excited.
“They are ready to embrace the season, starting with a very tough game against Toulon.”
Sharks website editor Michael Marnewick reports that Gold managed to get back to Durban last week to watch the players participating in the two warm-up games against Rovers and Collegians, and explains their thinking and what they hoped to achieve.
“It was really about putting principles into place, to see them put into a practice match scenario. Both clubs came out guns blazing and it was a nice challenge for our guys to have this first run of the season against teams that didn’t know what we were trying to do.
“I’m pleased that the guys got through the objectives of the day which weren’t really to win the games but to get our principles into place for the brand of rugby the coaches have tried to impart to them over the last couple of months. It was very successful.”
While the team selected for tonight’s match has a strong international feel about it, with 14 of the 26 players having represented their country at a senior level, they are missing a few more top line players who are back at home but are expected to be involved in next week’s Super Rugby opener against the Cheetahs at Kings Park.
“There are six or seven Springboks not available at the moment, but that’s an unbelievable opportunity for the young guys who have been through pre-season and put in all the hard work,” Gold points out.
“It’s going to be a very exciting evening for us to see how far they’ve come and what areas we need to work on and improve upon.”
He admits that his expectations of this game is that this is ideal preparation for next week, give the quality Toulon boast, even if they are missing some of their international players.
“Because of the South African connection and the rest of the personnel in their team, I have no doubt they are going to come out and be highly competitive. It’s also an opportunity for them to give a few fringe players a bit of a run as well. There’s no doubt that at this stage of the season they’ll want to go out and put their hands up so they play a role not only in the Top 14 but also for the European final.
“So there is a lot to play for from their point of view and it’s going to be a massive challenge, one we’re very excited about. I’m really happy they we are going to be playing such a quality team.”
The goal for this match is to put into practice the things the team has been working on over the course of the last two-and-a-half months and give everyone a good run before they kick off their campaign next Saturday.
“I think, pretty much, this is a high intensity match and to get through the things we’ve been practicing against quality opposition is going to be the challenge for us,” he says.
“And then, we have 26 guys here and we want to give them all a bit of a run and reward them for the hard work they’ve put in during the pre-season. We’re expecting a pretty hostile crowd at Stade Mayol and to see how Toulon react and how they play against us will be a good indication for us ahead of the Super Rugby competition.”