Sharks coach Robert du Preez says the tour of Australia that kicks off their Super Rugby season will be a tough challenge.
The Sharks have an easier fixture list in 2017, as they will play the five Australian franchises and not those from New Zealand, which was the case last year.
Du Preez, though, is not underestimating the Aussies, whose conference was the weakest in 2016.
The Sharks begin their season with away matches against the Reds (24 February) and Brumbies (4 March), before returning to Durban to face the Waratahs (11 March).
'It’s going to be a tough challenge in Australia because the Reds have put together a strong team and I have no doubt they will be a tough team, likewise the Brumbies, also at home,' Du Preez told the Sharks website.
The coach said he was pleased that his players had returned from the Christmas break in good shape.
'It was a long pre-season, seven weeks, so they had a well-deserved break in December. They’ve come back and been tested and generally I’m happy with the results.
'What’s really been pleasing is that the youngsters we brought into the squad have performed well on the training field and they’ve brought good energy. They will push hard for places in the team and that’s what excites me.'
Meanwhile, Du Preez confirmed that scrumhalf Cobus Reinach, whose 2016 season was affected by injury, is back in Durban after a stint with French club Bordeaux as a medical joker.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images