Changing Perspectives

Such is the nature of international rugby commitments that the Vodacom United Rugby Championship has seen an ebb and flow in the make-up of the various sides in the competition.

In the early stages of the URC when the South African sides toured the northern hemisphere without their Springboks, they found the going tough against near international sides from Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

Now, with the Six Nations currently taking place, these sides are now touring South Africa sans their test players and then there’s the weather to throw in even more curve balls. All of which makes for an interesting dynamic.

Although February is behind us, traditionally hottest part of the year, the lingering effects remain which probably count in the Cell C Sharks favour against a Scarletts’ side still used to a northern hemisphere wintery conditions.

“It’s still very hot and humid, the ball is very slippery and we are expecting a super humid evening,” explains Cell C Sharks wing Sbu Nkosi. “We’ve been training in these conditions and we’re used to them because the coaches align training with when the sun is at its harshest so we are used to it and can use the heat and humidity to our advantage. It balances things out for when we flew over to Europe and played in their environment.”

Not only with the temperatures be different, but so too the team make-up for the early rounds played in Ireland, Scotland and Wales when the Cell C Sharks were missing a number of frontline players to the Springboks, while the European sides were at home and at full strength.

“The Welsh sides without their Six Nations players are probably just like the South African teams without their Springboks,” he points out. “Those players are normally the backbone of the team in terms of on-field play, communicating with coaches on strategies and the overall big match temperament you need in these international club clashes.

“From our side, we work towards improving each week and we have improved in many facets of our game, we have a very good game model that we’re trying to perfect right now, although we’re not quite there yet. But on the day when it clicks, it’s going to be amazing.”

Looking towards the opposition, he admits that they are in for a full-on attack from Scarletts.

“ They’re a great side with very good kicking shape so we expect an overall test match feel to the game, especially in the beginning.

“The two sides have a lot of respect for each another.”

Considering the Cell C Sharks without Lukhanyo Am, Nkosi explains of their campaign captain that, “It would be difficult for any team in the world to lose a player like him, he brings exceptional quality and great moments when they’re really needed, but we do have some capable replacements and the balance of the backline do bring huge amounts of quality and x-factor. I’m sure we will be fine and if each player gives us 10% more, that will make up for the loss.”

The competition is starting to hot up now as full strength South African sides start to host the teams from overseas and the battle for log positions grows ever fiercer.

“Our coaches have made it very clear that every single game from now on is a big game for us and we must afford every side we face as much respect as we can.

“We are really close, we started off showing glimpses of the game model we want to execute, and then more and more glimpses were shown, until it turned into patches. We’re close, we just need to keep consistency and once we achieve that, we’ll be hitting the nail on the head.”