Cell C Sharks assistant coach Nick Easter praised the contribution of, amongst others, Ruan Botha earlier in the week, talking about the presence, leadership, experience and physical force he brings to the team.
Admitting that he was raring to go after a lengthy injury spell on the side-lines, the big lock has now been back for a few weeks and is now able to add huge presence (in form and anatomy) to the team’s efforts.
“That hunger when you get laid off for a while – six to seven weeks – is immense and all you want to do is be back on the park and get physical,” he explained after training this week.
“It helps the team to have that dominance in the pack and we’re striving to keep building on it, week by week and I’ll do anything I can to get this team going forward.”
Looking back to Saturday’s victory over the Lions, it was a fantastic performance in a game where the team was under pressure but found themselves up to the task. But it wasn’t only a performance that backed up the team’s hard work and determination, but an important marker put down at a vital time in the competition.
“The guys have shown a lot of character defending our tryline and it’s a proud moment when you turn the ball over after multiple phases and score at the other end,” he explained, referring to Makazole Mapimpi’s intercept try in the final quarter of the game.
“That’s built a lot of confidence, although we know what an attacking threat the Hurricanes will present this weekend when they have ball in hand, so we know we need to stop their ball possession as quickly as possible.”
Both teams are second on the respective country logs, both fighting to finish top to claim a home quarter-final match, which just adds to the spice of this match as well as the remaining two matches afterwards.
“They’re in exactly the same position as us: they want to finish top of the log and they know what they need to do to catch up to the Crusaders in the New Zealand Conference, they’ll do everything possible to achieve that. The same counts for us in the South African Conference.”
he three remaining matches in the regular season (against the Hurricanes and then away games to the Jaguares and Stormers) take on huge importance for the Cell C Sharks. Now at the business end of the competition, any slip-ups could prove hugely expensive, particularly given how tight the South African Conference is, with just six points separating the Jaguares in first place and the Stormers in fifth.
“For us it’s now a matter of wanting to win every game,” said Botha. “It doesn’t matter if it’s by one point or two or three, but we’re willing to do everything in our power to win.”