With a new competition comes new challenges, and Cell C Sharks loose forward Philip van der Walt believes that with each team starting afresh, success will come to those who don’t falter.
With a single round of matches, team’s that slip up could just find themselves falling by the way side, and after last week’s hugely positive start, gaining a five-pointer against the Pumas away from home, the Cell C Sharks will look to back that up with another strong showing against Griquas on Friday evening.
“We’ve made a good start to the competition, but obviously there are things to work on,” van der Walt admits.
“Unlike last year when we lost that fixture (also in the opening round against the Pumas in Nelspruit), we can build on this each week. Getting the competition off with a win sets the tone nicely, better than last year obviously and now we have a base to build on.”
With very few changes to the playing squad from Super Rugby, he admits that it’s good to take some continuity into the Currie Cup. When there are wholesale changes, it’s not about individuals stepping up and fitting in, but also needing time to build partnerships and this often means the early stages of the competition don’t see the kind of flow in play that the Cell C Sharks want, and exhibited last week.
“We also only had a week off after Super Rugby which is like a bye, but we have a base to build on. We did lose a couple of guys, but a big group of Super Rugby players is here and that’s given us continuity.
“We can definitely build on that, and the good start, with confidence.”
With this new competition comes new challenges for the various teams. Sides like the Pumas and Griquas – who the Cell C Sharks host on Friday night at Growthpoint KINGS PARK – generally remain intact all season. They’ve come through the Qualifying rounds in great shape and performed well. For teams like the Lions, finalists this year, their successes mean they lose players to the Springbok cause, many more than the Cell C Sharks which is a change from previous years.
But ultimately, the competition remains tough and challenging.
“My view has always been that a team can change quickly and I hope we can adapt from the bad things we’ve done and build on the good,” says van der Walt. “Every team has the same perspective: it’s a new competition and we’ll treat every game, every opponent with a lot of respect, especially in our preparations.”
And his thoughts on how Super Rugby success might translate into Currie Cup success?
“To be honest, I don’t think there is a link. This is a new competition, most teams have a lot of new players and I don’t think if a team loses players they will necessarily be worse. But anything is possible, isn’t it?”
Going further, he suggests that the competition is wide open this year with no clear-cut front-runner.
“It’s up for grabs. Because it’s short, just eight weeks, you only have one opportunity and the team that uses it effectively will have a good chance.”