Rugby news from KwaZulu-Natal:
Thriving Under Pressure:
When it has mattered most, the Cell C Sharks have delivered the goods in this year’s Vodacom Super Rugby competition, notably some outstanding performances against New Zealand opposition as well as the defeat of the Emirates Lions two weeks ago.
Following the loss to the DHL Stormers at Newlands last Saturday, the Cell C Sharks once again find ourselves in the spotlight as we chase a top eight finish. This Saturday, at JONSSON KINGS PARK, the team has the opportunity to show the detractors just what they are capable of.
“There’s definitely a bit of pressure after losing to the Stormers and knowing we have to beat the Jaguares this weekend if we want a chance to progress to the knock-outs,” explains Cell C Sharks fullback Curwin Bosch.
“But this team seems to thrive under pressure so we’re not giving up.”
That never-say-die attitude is crucial given the obstacles and challenges that lie ahead, but with one more round remaining in the pool stages, our destiny remains to be written.
“We know we shot ourselves in the foot last weekend, every other team did us a favour, except us,” he says. “But the team knows we have a second opportunity which doesn’t happen often in a competition of this nature.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead this week, a good challenge for this young group of players.”
This weekend will be all about learning from last weekend’s mistakes and rectifying the issues that cost us.
“One simple thing let us down in Cape Town – we created plenty of opportunities to put the Stormers away, but execution let us down. At the end of the day it comes down to patience in execution of the game plan.”
With the Vodacom Bulls having come from behind to defeat the Jaguares in Pretoria last weekend, it proves that the Argentineans are not invincible. But it does mean that they will come out firing.
“The Jaguares will be hurting after coming off a loss, but it’s the same for us, we lost a game we should have won and the Jaguares will believe they too should have beaten the Bulls. “It’s going to be a tough challenge but we know how important this game is for us.”
Looking at the Jaguares’ play against the Bulls, Bosch explains how video analysis had identified possible areas to target.
“We’ve looked at the video and spotted some weaknesses and hopefully we can execute the plan we have against them and play the kind of rugby we’re supposed to.
“If we don’t win this weekend, we’re done in this competition. So we’re treating each game we play in the Super Rugby competition like a final – starting on Saturday.” That final will require some form of consistency, something that has bedevilled the side this season.
“We need to fix our basics and do the things that are in our control, and do them well. Sometimes we try to force things, the offload for example when we could be putting it through one more phase. “Getting the basics right is going to be very important for us to regain our confidence.”
The SA Rugby U19 Championship kicks off this weekend for the Cell C Sharks Under 19s who travel to Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium to take on the EP Elephants Under 19s on Saturday.
The issue facing the Under 19 side each year is the same, one of bonding a new group of players together and getting them to gel in a relatively short space of time. To address this, head coach Sean Everitt explains how things have changed in 2018.
“We started earlier than normal this year with the contracted group of 17 players and slowly added to the squad as the season. So we’re well-prepared compared to previous years.”
For a coach looking to blend the youngsters, some just out of school, into a team with a common purpose and playing to its collective ability, Everitt admits that constant and consistent improvement over the course of the season will be paramount.
“Our focus this campaign will be game for game and on our own performance, rather than the result. We have a double-round tournament so there is room for improvement as it goes on and we will develop as we go. So the focus is on our performance and developing the team as a whole.”
Homegrown talent, Phendulani ‘Pepsi’ Buthelezi, playing at eighthman, will lead the side in the tournament. Schooled locally, the product of DHS has leadership running through his veins, having not only captained his school’s 1st XV last year but was also the head boy. He went one further in captaining the Sharks U/18 Craven Week side last year and now stands on the precipice of his biggest role.
‘Pepsi’ Buthelezi, as he is known to his team-mates says the captaincy roles gave him a lot of experience, “And the leadership role I have this year is a step up, but not anything new and it’s something I’m really looking forward to.
“We’ve had a long pre-season that started in January, but the guys have really come together and through all the training we’ve bonded well,” he explains. “At a training camp two weeks ago we set out our team goals, the team values and what we want to achieve together.
“This is not only a talented group, but a bunch of really good guys as well.”
|The Cell C Sharks U19s
|1. James Scott
||16. Cole Haggard
|2. Fezokuhle Mbatha
||17. Charles Staples
|3. Francois Klopper
||18. Jeandre Labushagne
|4. Ignacio Vidal
||19. Armandt Conradie
|5. JJ van der Mescht
||20. Adam Mountfort
|6. Vian Fourie
||21. Matthew Doyle
|7. Dylan Richardson
||22. Onke Jiba
|8. Pepsi Buthelezi (c)
||23. Muller du Plessis
|9. Sanele Nohamba
|10. Henry Chamberlain
|11. Siphamandla Matsinya
|12. Murray Koster
|13. Donald Falconer
|14. Caleb Dingaan
|15. Thaakir Abrahams