Action Aplenty

Vodacom Super Rugby returns with the 2020 season kicking off this weekend and the Cell C Sharks hosting the Vodacom Bulls in our tournament opener at Jonsson Kings Park on Friday evening.

Head coach Sean Everitt has a strong line-up to take on his team’s bitter rivals and for many fans (and critics alike), it’s a case of a strong Sharks backline against a powerful Bulls pack.

The truth of the matter is that the Cell C Sharks pack is eager to shrug off any suggestion that they are young, inexperienced and even out of their league. And what better way to argue your point than on the playing field.

Certainly the test of physicality does not get much bigger than against the Vodacom Bulls.

New assistant coach Brent Janse van Rensburg has been working with the forwards and according to Everitt, is doing a sterling job.

“Brent has been amazing, from day one. He’s a very organised coach who drills the pack exceptionally well. There were areas of concern going into Super Rugby and he’s ironed those out – notably the maul. We all know the maul is difficult because teams can work around it and the laws have changed to try to nullify the advantage you get from mauls, so we’ve worked hard there.”

An interesting selection was made amongst the loose forwards where new signing James Venter is handed his debut. Interesting because of the role he will play.

“In the past, the Cell C Sharks have gone with a forward dominant pack and never really relied on an open-side flank, although one has played a partial role at times,” Everitt explains. “I believe in having an out and out fetcher to put pressure on the opposition’s breakdown because the majority of tries are coming from turnovers, so we need to do something about that.

“In the past, the Cell C Sharks haven’t put that much pressure on the breakdown and created opportunities to score tries, so hopefully the inclusion of James Venter will help in this respect.”

Alongside the debutants comes a new captain in Lukhanyo Am, although he will be surrounded by leaders with experience.

“Lukhanyo is leading this team for the first time, but we do have some old hands, Louis Schreuder has captained the team before, Andre Esterhuizen has had leadership roles within the Springbok setup and he’s been leading our defence for a couple of years now. Makazole Mapimpi has shown a lot of leadership on the training field while Thomas du Toit is an experienced guy looking after the set-piece.”

With the Cell C Sharks boarding a plane after this match for the four match overseas leg, Everitt explains that the team has only one focus and that’s not the next month. “We’re looking at this game in isolation, we haven’t spoken about the tour as yet. Friday night will be a good measure of where we are after playing a big group against the Stormers; we now have our matchday 23.”

Meanwhile captain Lukhanyo Am is looking forward to his role as leader and believes the Cell C Sharks have the team to compete, and do so competitively.

“There’s no pressure on me as captain, although there is a huge responsibility – this is my first time in the role – but we have the leadership group which makes my job much easier. The group is experienced and that takes the pressure off me. This allows me to focus on my game and I’m very honoured and privileged to lead the team.

“We have quite a balanced team, there’s a lot of youth but we also have lots of experience as well.