Sharks to warm up for SuperRugby against Toulon

South African Super Rugby conference winners the Sharks will warm up for the 2015 Super Rugby season with a match against Heineken Cup champions Toulon.

The match will be a “friendly” match and will be held in France at the start of February.

European champions Toulon will tackle the South African Super Rugby Sharks franchise in a friendly in February, the French club tweeted on Sunday.

The idea of a friendly between the two sides was mooted earlier in the week when Sharks manager John Smit, South Africa’s 2007 World Cup winning captain, threw down the gauntlet and tweeted a direct challenge to Toulon.

He said Tuesday: “Its easier to win Heineken (European) Cup than to contest a @SuperRugby title, @RCTofficiel how do u feel about a game against the SA Conf champs 2014?”

That prompted Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal to quip in a press conference later that day: “I’ve seen Jaws I, II and III and sharks don’t scare me!”

But on Sunday, Toulon’s official twitter account posted the message: “Toulon accept John Smit’s challenge and will face the Sharks on February 5, 2015 at Mayol.”

The match will take place in Toulon on the same weekend as the first round of Six Nations matches, meaning the French champions will be badly depleted from international call-ups.

But Super Rugby side the Sharks will still be in their pre-season as the 2015 Super Rugby competition — pitting teams from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia against each other — starts a week later.

According to organisers SL Events, talks had been ongoing before Smit’s tweet about a possible match.

It will pit current Toulon fly-half Frederic Michalak against the team where he twice spent a year, in 2008 and 2011.

Boudjellal claimed on Tuesday that when he told manager Bernard Laporte about the challenge, the former France coach responded: “If they want to play the champions, it’s where they want, when they want!”

Confirming the match, Sharks CEO John Smit said,”I have huge respect for Toulon and their success in recent years is a clear indication of the brand of rugby they play as well as their work ethic and the pride and passion they have for their club and the game at large.

“It’s always good to play against, learn and share ideas with the best teams around and we are delighted that Toulon has accepted the challenge. We look forward to an epic battle on the field of play and a long-term partnership off it.”

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