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Sharks have a lot to prove

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The rest of the Sharks side look raring to go, with coach Robert du Preez showing his hand in his selection for the Ballito game

Jacques Vermeulen proved his value to the Sharks in the warm-ups, standing out among the errors. Picture: African News Agency (ANA) Archives

While it may be true that no team likes to travel away from home for their first game, especially not all the way to Singapore, the Sharks will at least be happy with their calibre of opponent as they face the Sunwolves this weekend in the Super Rugby opener.

The Sunwolves have been perennial under-performers, as late additions to the Super Rugby competition, with their inclusion aimed at growing rugby in Japan, especially in a World Cup year that will be hosted in the Far East.

However, the Sunwolves have proven to be far more difficult to best in recent seasons, with other South African teams coming short on a few occasions.

This will be in the back of the Sharks’ minds, especially after a less-than-impressive pre-season showing.

The Sharks faced the Lions in a high-profile pre-season game in Cape Town, and lost.

They then took on the Bulls in the coastal town of Ballito, and drew in an error-ridden match. Of course, the results matter little, but the style of play put on by the Sharks can hardly be said to be sparking joy.

Attacking rugby through the opening two games was mostly at a minimum as the Sharks were happy to defend and strike off mistakes from their opponents. It must still be remembered that these are just pre-season games, and the fact that 33 players got game time last weekend in Ballito is probably more important for the coaching side.

What is equally pleasing for the coaches is that in these pre-season games, no one suffered major injuries, with Jean-Luc du Preez the only real concern from his injury sustained in England during the off-season.

The rest of the Sharks side look raring to go, with coach Robert du Preez showing his hand in his selection for the Ballito game.

On paper, it is a strong-looking starting line-up that the coach has at his disposal, and even in the back-ups, he has some excellent players.

The likes of Jacques Vermeulen and Jeremy Ward proved their value in the warm-ups, standing out among the errors. Then, of course, there are seasoned campaigners such as Beast Mtawarira, Coenie Oosthuizen, Ruan Botha and Lwazi Mvovo who will be relied on by the Sharks to get them off to a good start in Singapore.

After the Sunwolves game, it is straight back home for the Sharks to take on the Blues, a New Zealand side that has failed to perform, but then they get into a host of local derbies, hosting the Stormers before travelling to Loftus for the Bulls.