Munster knew they had a tough challenge ahead of them on Saturday afternoon, as they travelled to face the Cell C Sharks in the last 16 of the Champions Cup.
Though Munster sit ahead of the Sharks in the URC table, travelling to South Africa is a notoriously difficult challenge, and they would need everything in their arsenal if they were to get the better of the Durban team.
It did not help, then, when they found the pitch in a shocking state ahead of kick-off on Saturday.
The Kings Park Stadium pitch could be seen cutting up badly within the first five minutes of the game, and it led fans and pundits alike to question the maintenance of the ground for such an enormous game.
Sharks v Munster: Durban pitch under scrutiny
For Munster, the tie could hardly have gotten off to a better start. Wing Shane Daly scored a sensational try within just six minutes of kick-off, galloping down the wing before evading the attention of the Sharks defence to touch down and give his team an early lead.
However, the video footage of Daly's try shows just how badly the pitch was cutting up, with only five minutes of the game gone.
As Daly evaded tackles from the desperate Sharks defence, pieces of turf could be seen easily flicking up from the boots of the players, leading to concerns about the condition of the pitch.
What a move 👏@Munsterrugby go wide and @shanedaly96 cuts back in to score the first try of the day 🏉#HeinekenChampionsCup pic.twitter.com/ctmAe0nOrS
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) April 1, 2023
On what was already set to be a massive day for both teams, in scorching hot conditions, this would only make the test all the more difficult for Munster.
The condition of the pitch garnered much reaction from fans watching the match, and it was the centre of attention on Twitter during the first half.
Concerns were raised that the awful state of the field could lead to injuries for players on both sides. It was certainly safe to say that the pitch was not one befitting of such a huge and enticing clash in the knockout stages of the Champions Cup.
This pitch in Durban is shite. I've played on better amateur ones. Both sides will be lucky to come out of this game without a serious injury. #sharks #Munster
— Reb (@RunningReb13) April 1, 2023
Pitch in Durban cutting up badly early in the match. Need to keep it tight #SUAF
— Maria (@grigal) April 1, 2023
The pitch in Durban is disgracefully bad.
Players slipping all over the shop.
Hopefully no one gets injured out there.
— Cian Tracey (@CianTracey1) April 1, 2023
Sharks should be fined for the state of that pitch. Shocking
— Overthehillprop (@Overthehillprop) April 1, 2023
Between the pitch and Mapimpi's sidestepping, there's a broken ankle waiting to happen at King's Park. #SHAvMUN
— Neil Treacy (@neil_treacy) April 1, 2023
The pitch continued to cut up as the first half went on, with the issue worsening with every minute in the baking 26 degree heat in Durban.
The conditions at Kings Park would only make the challenge tougher for Munster, and the Sharks did not take long to find their way back in to the game. Two tries and a penalty saw them go in at half-time three points up, with a second try for Munster from Dave Kilcoyne keeping them in the game.