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Sharks confident they have mix right for 2018

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Friday, January 19, 2018    Getty Images

Ahead of their first warm-up games, against the Bulls next week and then against Racing 92 in Hong Kong, the Sharks have been back at work after their Christmas break and building on their intense pre-holiday work.

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Coach Robert du Preez said on sharksrugby.co.za, "We had a four week pre-season, before the break, and it proved to be a great four weeks.

"The boys worked really hard with a big emphasis on keeping the pre-season a lot more rugby-related. I think the players enjoyed it although we did take them out of their comfort zone, so there was no status quo as far as how things have been done in the past."

Early signs of the competition for places have been seen at first five-eighths where Curwin Bosch had been the incumbent since Pat Lambie's departure for France. But Robert du Preez junior has returned to the side to play alongside his twin brothers Jean-Luc and Daniel.

"Rob and Curwin have really worked well together. For the first time in my two years here, we have a squad where there won't be any complacency because there's so much competition in the team – which is what you want.

"Everyone is going to have to work hard to get into the starting line-up. But it's a long season and we're going to have to carefully consider how we give everyone an opportunity to play. Our success will hinge on using the squad effectively," he said.
The Sharks have also bolstered their coaching depth. Former Springbok and Sharks player and coach Dick Muir and former Springbok first five-eighths and centre Braam van Straaten are in the structure with Van Straaten in charge of defence and kicking.

"It's great to have people like that here, with great experience. Dick's presence here was much-needed, he adds balance," du Preez said.

Like all sides they have injury concerns and it is believed Coenie Oosthuizen will miss the Super Rugby campaign while Jean-Luc du Preez has had ankle surgery and is expected to be out of action until the side's tour to Australia and New Zealand starting in mid-March.

"We have also monitored the guys who came back from Japan. Stephen Lewies has a hip pointer injury but he's looking in the best shape he's ever been in. Lwazi Mvovo and Philip van der Walt will join us on Monday. Andre Esterhuizen is playing a promotion-relegation match so he will be back later. New signing Makazole Mapimpi joins us from the Cheetahs on Monday," he said.

Du Preez wasn't concerned about the workload the players in Japan had been under.

"They haven't played too much rugby and the players are disciplined and hard-working. We have no issues there," he said.

The Sharks first contact with New Zealand sides will be against the Blues on March 31.