When the Cell C Sharks and Benetton meet in Treviso in Saturday’s Vodacom United Rugby Championship, fireworks can be expected between the Italians and South Africans.
The Cell C Sharks are desperate to build on a decent run of form of late, with head coach Sean Everitt aware that his team can rise to even greater levels than before.
Being able to select an almost unchanged side speaks volumes for continuity and building momentum and the changes reflect an interesting dynamic, particularly at flyhalf.
Explaining the rationale behind Curwin Bosch back at 10, Everitt admitted from the team’s base in Italy that it was a horses for course decision based on the opposition’s high kicking rate and the need to counter that by selecting someone with a huge and educated boot of his own.
“Curwin has gone well in the last two weeks and we saw when he came on against the Bulls, he kicked to poles really well,” Everitt explained. “The challenge that’s coming from Benetton is that they have the fourth highest kicking metres in the competition so it makes sense to go like-for-like and that’s why Curwin gets a run.
The anticipation of a kicking game is nothing new either.
“The challenge we have in the kicking game is the same that Ospreys gave us in Wales [the Cell C Sharks winning that game 27-13] and we know we need to be really smart in how we manage the game. Benetton rely a lot on their maul as a source of possession and a source to attack from so playing in the right areas of the field is going to be vitally important and Curwin will certainly play a major role in that.”
With Benetton contesting the final of the Rainbow Cup and winning quite comprehensively against the Bulls when much more was expected of the latter, Everitt admitted that there was no underestimating the Italians. He also pointed out that the Cell C Sharks have ulterior motivation that comes from winning.
“There’s definitely no complacency, we want to do as well as we can in this competition and one of our goals is to finish in the top eight and if we win this game with a bonus point, there’s a good chance we’ll jump a few places, so that’s plenty of motivation on its own.
“Benetton have done well this season as it is, they’ve had some really good results and run a few of the top teams close and they will count themselves unfortunate to have lost last week so they will come into this game with a lot of confidence.
“In saying that, we have learned lessons from the Stormers as well as the Bulls and some of the other franchises that have played against them. We know they’re not a team that can be taken lightly.”
Although Benetton are understrength having lost players to the Six Nations, the Cell C Sharks coach felt there was no chance of falling into the trap of not taking the Italians seriously enough.
“They have international players as well as five South Africans who are all good players and on their day are some of the top players in South Africa. I’m sure the Italians will bring a lot of passion and emotion on Saturday and with us having so many Springboks in our team, it does put a target on our back and teams would like to get one over us.
“It is going to be a challenge and we’re not taking them lightly.”
Regardless of the team they face or the individuals missing or present, Everitt admitted that his team’s focus is more on themselves, particularly with their performance-driven philosophy.
“We’ve only lost one of our last five games, but in saying that, we haven’t performed and that’s been our focus. We’re focusing on us, on getting better so that we can get into the top eight and compete in the quarter-finals.”