Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold expects Thursday's match against Toulon to be of Super Rugby standard.
Gold arrived in Durban last week following the Kobelco Steelers' semi-final defeat in the Japanese Top League, and was satisfied with what he saw in the Sharks' training games against local club teams Rovers and Collegians.
But the 2014 South African Super Rugby conference winners now face their first real test of the new season, with a match at the Stade Mayol against the French and European champions, who are reportedly going to select all their South Africans, including Bryan Habana at centre.
'Toulon is a world-class outfit with several internationals so we are expecting an epic battle,' Gold told the Sharks website. '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.'
While the result is of little consequence, the Sharks are eager to take some momentum into their Vodacom Super Rugby opener against the Cheetahs at Kings Park next Saturday.
'We obviously want to win the game, but more importantly, it is preparation for the Cheetahs game on 14 February,' said Gold. '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.'
All 26 members of the Sharks squad will get game time during Thursday's match, which will be televised on SuperSport 1 from 9:50pm.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images