The Du Preez twins, Daniel and Jean-Luc, have been picking up Man of the Match awards with eyebrow-raising regularity this season ( including the pre-season tour to France) thus precluding their no doubt proud Dad from being involved in selection issues just yet in his portfolio as Sharks attack coach.
But Robert du Preez senior knows that there can be no such thing as family ties when it comes to selection issues that will inevitably crop up down the line. Du Preez, a Springbok that first started out at Western Transvaal in the Currie Cup B section way back in 1982 and – via a distinguished period at the Bulls partnering Naas Botha in the heyday of both players – finished an impressive career at Natal in 1998.
Du Preez subsequently went into the business world and was a major achiever in marketing Mr Price, who for some time were the anchor sponsors of the Sharks.
“It is a professional environment and I have to behave accordingly, and so do my sons,” Du Preez said. “I had good advice from Ian McIntosh (who was coach of the Sharks when his son, Craig, played a few games for the province). You have to make rugby decisions and make sure you don’t go out of your way to be tough on your kids (while obviously not favouring them). You must see it as business as usual.”
This week Du Preez has been spared a confrontation between his twin sons, who are currently featuring in the Sharks’ loose trio, and their elder brother Robert, who would have started at Newlands on Saturday against the Sharks had he not been injured against the Cheetahs last week. The 22-year-old Robert Jnr (the twins are 20) has a potentially serious knee ligament injury.
It is going to be a massive test for a Sharks team that has thus far beaten second-string French sides in Toulon and Toulouse, thumped the hapless Kings and then ground out a character-building win over a very tough Jaguares team in Durban at the weekend.
The Stormers away will ask a new set of questions of a Sharks side that is rich in potential but, by Du Preez’s admission, still has searching examinations ahead of them.
“The Stormers are going to be very difficult in Cape Town,” he said. “They are similar to us in how they want to play. Already their forward pack is commanding a lot of respect and we are under no illusion as to the challenge in front of us but we are a confident bunch and we will give it our best shot.”
The Stormers are indeed without Robert Jnr at flyhalf but they have one of the best second-row pairings in the world in the former Shark Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth, the Man of the Match in his team’s win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
“We are a work in progress but we like to think we are getting better as the season progresses and it has definitely boosted our morale to have won four out of four,” Du Preez said. “The confidence in how we want to play is growing. We won’t hold back on Saturday.”
Du Preez reckons the Sharks have the ideal balance this year between youth and experience.
“Gary Gold and the management are creating something special and there is a nice spirit in the camp,” Du Preez said. “This last week against the Jaguares was obviously very difficult with ball in hand because it was very slippery, which is what you get in Durban at this time of the year. Our intent was there but we coughed up too many balls. We created a number of opportunities but should have converted more and that has got to improve if we are to beat the Stormers.”
by Mike Greenaway
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