Sharks pleased with progress
Toulon - The Cell C Sharks are well-settled in France ahead of their North vs South Challenge match against Toulon, with preparations on track and the coaching staff pleased with progress, reports Sharks website editor Michael Marnewick
"Preparations for the Toulon match on Thursday night have gone well and we have managed to fit in a number of very good training sessions already," explains assistant coach Sean Everitt.
"Gary Gold has joined us now and it is great to have him on board and the French have been looking after us really well and the guys are obviously in good spirits."
Gold flew in last week to watch the club matches and was satisfied with what he saw.
"The Rovers and Collegians game was extremely beneficial to us as we wanted to evaluate our pre-season work on our skills and intensity, and we were very happy with the standard of all players involved."
This match against Toulon is their last pre-season match before the start of Super Rugby and the team and coaches are well-aware of the enormity of the task that lies ahead. This is a champion side.
"Toulon is a world class outfit with several internationals so we are expecting an epic battle," he explains.
"They are a very physical team, with very well-organised defence and attacking structures.
"They have high quality individual players with X-factor which we are mindful of.
"Super rugby is an international competition but we are expecting this match (and opposition) to be of a very similar standard."
The answers the coaching staff seek from this game are varied, and while the result is of little consequence, gaining winning momentum would certainly stand them in the right frame of mind ahead of next week’s Super Rugby opener against the Cheetahs at Kings Park.
"We obviously want to win the game, but more importantly, it is preparation for the Cheetahs game on the 14th of February.
"We use every game as a development tool to get better and improve our intensity and to execute the plan as accurately as possible and this game is no different.
"We have worked hard on our intensity and skill work over the last two months of pre-season and the skill levels of the entire squad have improved a lot from all the hard work the players have put in.
"The Toulon game is our final preparation for Super Rugby."
With a squad of 26 for this match, the coaches will give everyone a chance to play, and not to assess or evaluate anyone, but rather to build the squad.
"It is important for us to give everyone an opportunity," Everitt explains.
"We are not seeing the game as a trial match as we are focusing on the development of the group.
"We have a strong squad on this trip, but people have been left at home because of injury and conditioning purposes and they will come into contention for selection on the Monday of the Cheetahs week.
"The squad of players are very excited about the season approaching and the challenge that Toulon, the current European champions, will bring on a cold and wet Thursday evening in the South of France."