The Sharks, who will play five of their first six matches away from home, including their Australasian tour, is happy to get the Super 14 road trip out of the way early.
Rugby 365 reports that as one of the pre-tournament favourites – after reaching the play-offs for the past two years and being Currie Cup champions – the Durban based franchise will get their first taste of ‘touring’ when they play the lowly Pumas in a warm-up match in Witbank on Saturday.
But it is when the tournament proper starts that they will really hit the road – facing the Stormers (in Cape Town), the Chiefs (Hamilton), the Blues (Auckland), the Reds (Brisbane) and the Western Force (Perth) in the first six weeks.
Their only home match is in Round Two against the Lions.
The good news is that six of the remaining seven matches are then in Durban – including facing top teams like the Brumbies, Hurricanes, Crusaders, Waratahs and 2007 nemesis the Bulls.
Scrumhalf Rory Kockott, who will be on the bench when the Sharks start their pre-season campaign against the Pumas on Saturday, said they have never been concerned about playing away from home.
This is a far cry from some of the other South African teams, who mostly detest the Australasian leg of the campaign.
“I don’t think we’ve ever been a side that has struggled to play away from home,” Kockott told rugby365, when asked about the start to the season.
The statistics seem to back up his declaration that the Sharks know how to win on the road – with 2005 the last time that they failed to win in Australasia and with back-to-back victories abroad a regular feature of their campaigns.
“We really enjoy our time overseas,” Kockott said, adding: “We make it our goal not to let it affect us and it definitely hasn’t [affected us] since I’ve been playing.”
He said there is no difference in attitude from the Sharks when they play at home or away.
“The boys will be just as keen to play a few matches in Australia and New Zealand as they are keen to start playing here [in Durban],” he told rugby365.
The other aspect of the Sharks game that has helped become such a success over the years – three times beaten finalists and another three appearances in the play-offs – is their ability to mix it up and not become predictable.
“There’s never been a label of us being predictable, we’ve always had the game to adjust to the different opposition we play,” the scrumhalf said.
“At times, when the occasion requires for the game to get structured, we are happy and capable to play like that and if it gets loose the boys also enjoy playing that type of game.”
Kockott, who has played mostly behind Ruan Pienaar at scrumhalf since he joined the Sharks in 2007 said he is now looking forward to more regular starts in the No.9 jersey.
“I’m relishing the opportunity to play at No.9 and playing with Ruan Pienaar at No.10.
“Every time I have played with him as the flyhalf I have enjoyed it and hopefully we can make it work from the beginning this year.”
Kockott added that as the two gains more experience as a halfback combination, the more they will be able to dictate terms in what are the most pivotal positions in the team.
“I know what he expects from me and he knows what I expect from him at flyhalf.
“It certainly gives the team more opportunities,” he said, adding: “We have different areas of the game we can manage and I think it will show when we play more and more together.
“We’ll see it towards the end of this season.”
That combination will not start against the Pumas on Saturday, as coach John Plumtree has given the fringe players an early run.
However, with both Pienaar and Kockott on the bench, they are sure to feature in the latter stages of the match in Witbank.Tweet