Sharks flyhalf Robert du Preez says the team can’t afford to lift itself only for matches against New Zealand opposition this year.
The Sharks have a surprisingly good record against the New Zealand franchises last year, beating the Blues 63-40 in Auckland and losing by a point against the Hurricanes in Wellington, before getting home wins against the Highlanders and Chiefs.
However, this was mixed with poor results against the Australian franchises, with the team drawing at home to the Waratahs, and losing to the Brumbies and Rebels on the road.
Ahead of the Sharks’ first home game of the Vodacom Super Rugby season against the Blues, Du Preez said that the team needed to be more consistent in their approach this year.
‘The opposition kind of bring the best out of you,’ Du Preez told the Sharks website. ‘I don’t think we had a specific plan against the Kiwi sides. We just knew that they were really big games. But we have got to change our mindset around that. We can’t be up for a Kiwi game and then be down for an Aussie game. All games are the same, and there are no easy games this year.
‘We will look to build on what we did last year. It is a new year, [the Blues] are a new team, they have made some new signing,s so it is going to be a good battle on Saturday.’
The Blues, who are coming off a narrow loss to the Crusaders, bulked up their player roster in the off-season, signing Ma’a Nonu, who could form an experienced centre partnership with fit-again Sonny Bill Williams on Saturday.
‘He is an experienced campaigner,’ Du Preez said of Nonu. ‘He still has a lot of good rugby in him. He is physical with ball-in-hand and physical on defence, so I am really looking forward to the prospect of playing against him.
‘That is where we need to start thinking about ourselves and not too much about them. We have got more than enough in our arsenal and team to handle whatever they throw at us. Especially against teams with big names, you have got to worry about yourself. That is what we are going to do this week, think about our processes and concentrate on our good areas of the game.
‘I think the Crusaders did well at set piece, getting two set-piece tries. We have got a really solid set piece, so I am looking forward to that battle. I am sure the forwards are frothing for that.’
Returning from a successful stint with the Sale Sharks, Du Preez says his loan move did him plenty of good and he hopes to apply what he has learned this season.
‘I really enjoyed my time there. They say change is really good and I felt like when I came back I was really refreshed, even though I had played throughout the off-season. I learned a lot in the way they play in the northern hemisphere, their attacking abilities and how they unpick defences. Their defences are really strong. It is a little bit slower than Super Rugby because the defences are so good.
‘Hopefully, I can bring that back and apply that here. I really enjoyed it. I have always been a guy who likes to try new things, experience different experiences. That was really cool for me.’
Loan moves have received criticism in the media, with players such as Du Preez’s younger brother and Springbok flank Jean-Luc returning from a similar loan to Sale with a groin injury.
Despite the risk that comes with potentially overplaying during the off-season, Du Preez added that he would recommend it.
‘If it were up to me, I would encourage it of the players. It just broadens your horizons and you learn new things from different people. Sometimes you are learning the exact same things, but it is just a different voice and because it is a different voice, you listen or pick it up differently. It is something I would recommend.’
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