Durban - The Sharks host the Scarlets on Saturday at Jonsson Kings Park as the United Rugby Championship resumes and they will be better prepared for the Llanelli side after a chastening warm-up against the Cheetahs at the weekend.
The Cheetahs won the game 40-34 and while the Sharks obviously would have prefered to have won this Toyota Challenge match, they are pleased to have banked precious game time.
It is five weeks since the Sharks last played — a 23-17 loss to the Cardiff Blues — and a number of players needed to get going, including new recruits in Ben Tapuai (centre) and OJ Noah (flank).
Tapuai, who has played for the Wallabies and Noah, who is capped for Samoa, had not played for a long time and will be better off for the hit out. Both had promising debuts.
Coach Sean Everitt was disappointed in the result but pleased they made the trip to Bloemfontein.
“It has been a while since we played so we knew we would be rusty,” he said. “We have used the last few weeks since we got back from tour to have a bit of a pre-season (of conditioning work) as we did not have the opportunity prior to the Currie Cup, so the guys might have been a bit tired in the legs but that is no excuse, we have to be better than we were today and we are just thankful that we had this chance to play a game before the Scarlets.”
The Sharks started brightly against the Cheetahs and scored some excellent tries but then found themselves being opened up on defence, especially on the blindside where the Cheetahs attacked skilfully.
“We were not as desperate on defence as we should be and I was bit disappointed in that. We were not bouncing off the floor to get back into line like we ought to,” Everitt said.
“We did play some really good rugby (five very good tries were scored) but at the end of the day we didn't get the result although we take plenty out of it.”
The coach was also displeased at the manner in which the Sharks’ set-piece deteriorated as the game went on.
“Our set scrums were good early on we won a few penalties but the Cheetahs took over that ascendancy, so that is a work-on for us, and our lineouts in the gold zone were not good.
“Overall, this game was valuable preparation for us —you don’t quite gain match fitness at training although we try and push the intensity, and we will be good to go this week.”