The match is a curtain-raiser of sorts to the match between the Springboks and Argentina the next day at Kings Park. The Sharks v Bordeaux match is the inaugural Durban Challenge, with the Sharks and Durban Tourism set to bring other top European clubs to the same venue to play the Sharks over the next two years at least – the likes of Munster, Leicester and Stade Francais, according to Sharks CEO Eduard Coetzee.
Coetzee played five seasons in the front row of the Sharks (2001-2005) before playing 125 times for French club Biarritz. The Sharks begin their Currie Cup campaign a week after the Durban Challenge when they host the Bulls at Kings Park and coach Robert du Preez is viewing the match as vital preparation for his team’s opener against the Bulls.
In turn, Bordeaux begin the French Top 14 competition also a week later, and thus are taking Friday’s match very seriously.
“They are bringing a very strong squad to Durban and it is indeed going to be a challenge between two teams fine-tuning preparations for their respective domestic competitions,” Coetzee emphasised.
As well as a host of France internationals, Bordeaux boast a number of New Zealand, Australian and South African players, including Crusaders and All Blacks wing Seta Tamanivalu; Wallabies Nick Frisby and Leroy Houston, and former Sharks lock Jandre Marais.
Marais was in the Sharks team which won the 2011 Currie Cup title and, since joining Bordeaux, has built an impressive reputation as a combative lock.
“Bordeaux have the biggest following in French rugby,” Coetzee said. “Bordeaux is in a historic rugby stronghold in the southwest of the country. The club president (Laurent Marti) was a former Bordeaux player. Rugby is really strong in this region.”
The legions of fanatical Bordeaux supporters are colourfully nick-named Les Girondins or The Girondists, after a particularly blood-thirsty faction of the same name that was active in the French Revolution.
Tickets can be bought separately or there is a package which covers the Sharks match and the Test match. For details, go to sharksrugby.co.za