Durban - While the Cell C Sharks had a good run against two local club sides last Thursday evening, they know that a big challenge awaits them when they take on Toulon in the North v South Challenge this week.
In a pair of warm-up games comprising two chukkas of 25 minutes each, Rovers went down 55-0 and Collegians 49-0, with Heimar Williams, Lwazi Mvovo (2), SP Marais, Waylon Murray, Hanco Venter, Franco Marais and Thomas du Toit all scoring in the first match, with Pat Lambie and Lionel Cronje both converting three from four (and Lambie snapping over a drop-goal).
In the second game, Collegians too were held scoreless, while Fred Zeilinga converted all seven tries scored by Alcino Isaacs, Jack Wilson, S'bura Sithole (2), Jaco van Tonder and Cobus Reinach (2).
Scoring that many tries is always a positive and something the team will look to use as a base from which to launch this season, Sharks website editor Michael Marnewick reports.
Whilst he is the appointed defence coach, Michael Horak acknowledged that attack is just as important.
“Last year, the Sharks didn’t score that many tries, so that’s something we’d like to look at, improve on as a team,” he admitted, “because ultimately, that’s what brings fans back to the stadium and what creates the spectacle everyone wants to see.”
Defensively, his role (amongst others) is to put in structures to defend against quick ball and space. “The way the game is played in the Southern Hemisphere, quick ball is everything. So the emphasis is on discipline under pressure, time and space.”
Casting his eye towards Thursday evening’s final pre-season hit-out against the reigning Heineken Cup champions at Stade Mayol, Horak warned: “Toulon have good ball-carriers, big boys all over the park, devastating carriers, so they’re a very direct team. The beauty they bring from their point of view is that they have players who are not that structured. It’s not something you can look at and plan for by knowing what exact threat is coming.”
With Toulon smack bang in the middle of their season, it is easier to analyse them than their analysis of a C Sharks team that hasn’t played together in three months, and certainly not with the personnel that will run out onto the field.
“Defensively, we have to try to make them force plays, cut their water and lights off and put as much pressure on their lineout and scrum as possible. And obviously discipline: don’t give them field position where they can force us back into our 22. Then from first phase, we can’t give them momentum because if they get on the front foot, it becomes very hard to stop them.
“We are going to have to cover many threats; they’re a world class team with world class players.”