Durban - With the Cell C Sharks kicking off their Super Rugby campaign this Saturday against the Cheetahs at Kings Park, assistant coach Paul Anthony is satisfied the side is ready.
Sharks website editor Michael Marnewick reports that they’ve had great preparation, from pre-season training to game time, and their last outing, a 12-10 win against top European side Toulon, was no less competitive than they can expect to encounter in the southern hemisphere competition.
"From a game point of view, we were massively happy with our play in all phases - maul, kick-chase, on the ground - we were in the game the whole time," he explains.
"It was a tough match, the conditions were difficult with the hectic weather and obviously we would have liked to score tries.
"Yes, we conceded two but one of their tries came from a great cross-kick and the other from turn-over ball.
"But we met a top side and physically, we really took it to them."
Anthony also explains that it wasn’t only about a rugby match but having the team together for a week, bonding together ahead of the five month competition.
"Any questions we had were answered.
"What we wanted on-field, we got out, and off the field, there was fantastic bonding for the team, which was the other part of the exercise; to have fun to get to know each other. So on both fronts – on and off the field – we achieved our goals massively.”
Casting his eye towards the Cheetahs game, he is expecting a tough match.
Every side will want to put out a marker, to get their campaign off to a winning start, and neither of these two sides is any different. Adding further spice to the encounter is the fact that it is a South African derby, never anything but hugely physical and passionate.
"Any local derby is a cruncher," he says.
"We’re going to take into the game what we have and bring the intensity we know we have.
"We will play with everything we’ve got in order to try win this game.
"We have no illusions, we’re going to have to play well, do the hard yards.”
He warns that this is a Cheetahs team with multiple threats.
Traditionally they are a side that mixes physicality with some exciting attack; they certainly have the players.
"They are always going to be difficult," he says of the Cheetahs.
"They have the ability to strike from anywhere so we have to be completely focussed for 80 minutes.
"They have real x-factor players like Willie le Roux while Coenie Oosthuizen is a good carrier for them.
"They have superb attacking players who can really kill you, they can make magic from nothing, so we need to be totally focussed."
Although the Sharks are not at full-strength (just yet), Anthony is confident that the players in the squad have the ability and desire necessary to perform at a level required of them and he backs whoever plays this weekend, despite the absence of some major firepower.
"What’s vital is that the boys have trained so hard and we’ve established unity.
"The connection is massive and the players really came to the fore against Toulon.
"Sure, they missed a couple of players, but so did we.
"The guys were outstanding, they really showed their mettle and that was probably one of the most intense performances I’ve seen from a team in a long time.
"So I’m very confident in these guys, very confident that they can do the job."