The Sharks started their Currie Cup title defence with a convincing win over the Blue Bulls, but the big challenge for them will be to maintain that intensity throughout their campaign.
Coach John Plumtree heaped praise on his young charges after their emphatic victory at Kings Park on Saturday but then pointed out that one swallow does not make a summer, and explained that they cannot afford to ease up when they take on the Pumas this weekend.
He commented: "The youngsters were hungry and keen to impress, the challenge for them is to get up again, that's what it's like in professional rugby and that's what they have to learn.
"After a big game at home then a trip to Nelspriut which is a long way away and fronting up again like that will be the challenge. But I was proud of the effort, it was huge," said Plmtree.
The Durban-based outfit came through the physical encounter with the Blue Bulls with a few bumps and bruises, but the only injury question marks hang over tight forwards Anton Bresler and Eugene van Staden who pulled a hamstring at the captain's run on Friday.
Plumtree said: "Anton Bresler took quite a bad knock before half-time, he looked a bit jaded, but hopefully he will be OK for the weekend, The players suffered a few stingers, hopefully nothing serious. But otherwise no major issues to worry about and we're hoping Eugene will be all right for this weekend."
There were concerns before the match that the youthful Sharks pack would battle at scrum-time against the team from Pretoria, but Plumtree explained that he had no such worries on his mind.
"I had confidence in our scrum that it would go well after what I saw in the compulsory friendly, and the work Etienne Fynn has done with the pack is really positive. Wiehahn Herbst is really progressing and when Dale Chadwick came in [for Van Staden], I was confident he would step up, that's great, having props with that type ability, it all adds to our depth, even for next year's Super Rugby tournament," said the Sharks boss.
The victory was built on a commanding display from the Sharks forwards who approached their task with enthusiam, but Plumtree is well aware that they are not the finished article yet.
He noted: "They got excited the more success they were having and with that came confidence and belief. We scored some points as well so we were applying the pressure and the message with 20 minutes to go was to close the game out, and we did.
"But we have still got lots of work to do, what I was really pleased about was the energy and enthusiasm that the group had. That type of flow can flow in and out of your team, and the challenge in any competition is to keep it up. Hopefully we'll do that," he added.
The solid platform laid up front enabled Sharks skipper Keegan Daniel to have a storming game at No.8 and Plumtree is looking forward to seeing his new captain grow as a leader as the season unfolds.
"He leads by example which is what you want from any leader. Particularly on the field, he has a good rugby brain on him and he is very encouraging with the younger players. He enjoys that, I'm sure we will see him grow as a leader through the season," said Plumtree.
Other beneficiaries of the Sharks' forward dominance were their halfbacks Ross Cronje and Frederic Michalak who managed to control the game well.
Plumtree commented: "I thought Fred played really well, was a genuine threat in most parts of the field with his touches, his awareness is right up there with a player of his class. Ross Cronje was under pressure to perform and what's nice is that if he can play like that consistently, he will add depth in the position."
As encouraged as he was by his team's opening match in their title defence, Plumtree knows that they are in for a tough examination when they take the Pumas on in Nelspruit this weekend.
He said: "The Pumas are direct, they're tough and always start well in the Currie Cup. They won't want to lose two game in a row and certainly will present a tough challenge for us."
The Pumas ran the Lions close in their opening match on Friday - an impressive effort considering the Lions had nearly their entire Super Rugby squad available - and Plumtree is bracing himself for a fierce encounter.
He said: "The Pumas are comfortable playing in the Currie Cup, particularly in the early rounds when there are no injuries and their depth doesn't get affected, what we have to do is go up there with the same sort of intent we showed against the Bulls.
"Everyone has to play really well if you want to win away from home, it doesn't matter where you go. A Friday night game against the Pumas is a tough ask and the boys will know that. We have a tough trip and a short turnaround, so it's going to be a real challenge up there," added the Sharks coach.
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