Up for the Big Game

When two proud South African teams meet, the derby nature of such Vodacom Super Rugby clashes can only add to the hype of the game, and for the players, the chance to take on the best is motivation enough.

For Cell C Sharks lock Stephan Lewies, the opposition offer all the motivation necessary.

“No words of motivation are needed for this match,” he admits. “We take a lot of confidence out of the last match against them and we know what we’re up against. They’re competing for top spot on the log and we’re going to be up for this match.

“After the bye and loss to the Bulls, we need to get back into our rhythm and winning ways. After this it’s the quarter-finals, so there are no more second chances, so it’s do or die for us and we want to get some momentum from this game going into the quarters so we can build on each performance.”

The first round match went the way of the Lions, but narrowly so and they had to fight from behind to score the match-winner right at the death. It could so easily have been different.

“That performance does give us confidence, we enjoyed that game but losing is never the result we want. From a scoreboard point of view, we want to get one over them, we owe it to ourselves.

“We’re expecting a huge battle upfront and something we have really worked hard on for this game is our scrum. It’s been going well all season and something we pride ourselves on. We’re up for the challenge and hopefully can impose ourselves.”

With a top three ranking as far as scrums go, Lewies explains that it’s down to the hard work they put in. “We’re all on the same page, we know what’s required this weekend; hopefully we can execute our plan and provide a platform for the backs to attack from.”

With so much riding on the match, it’s bound to be not only a typically tough South African derby, but a game of almost test match proportions in which discipline and cutting out errors are going to be two key areas of focus.

“We’ve spoken a lot about discipline,” he explains, “it’s what cost us in the previous game against them, we’re expecting a massive battle upfront – which is a bit clichéd, but the game is definitely won and lost there.

“They’ll come into this game with a lot of confidence, especially in the Springboks in their side after doing so well against France, but it’s motivation for us, to see how we go against the best and to prove that we’re up there.”

He hasn’t been around very long, having only made his debut three years ago, but if selected to play the Lions this Saturday, will earn his 50th Super Rugby cap for the Cell C Sharks.

Originally from Pretoria where he was born and raised, he came to Durban straight out of school as a 19 years old, made his way through the age group ranks from Under 19, to Under 21 when he also made his Currie Cup debut as a 19 year old, winning the Currie Cup with the team that year.

“In 2014, I made my Super Rugby debut, playing with some legends who I had looked up to – guys like Willem Alberts, Bismarck du Plessis and Frans Steyn. It was a memorable year in which we beat the Crusaders.

“The time has gone by so quickly, I can’t believe it’s 50 already and it’s a dream come true for me to play 50 Super Rugby games for the Cell C Sharks.”