It’s been a devastating time for Durban and KZN, but this Saturday is an opportunity for the Cell C Sharks to put a smile back on the faces of the locals whose lives have been irreversibly affected by recent flooding.
Ahead of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship clash with the tournament’s leading side, Leinster from Ireland, Cell C Sharks loose forward Phepsi Buthelezi believes his team are in the right frame of mind to tackle this challenge head on.
With three matches ahead of the play-offs, the Cell C Sharks find themselves firmly entrenched in the top eight, but a win against the log leaders would not only help their log chase but certainly lay down a marker in the tournament.
“We’re feeling really good, we’ve enjoyed some good momentum in the past couple of games and our win against the Lions, especially in those conditions, has given us a lot of confidence,” Buthelezi explains in the lead-up to Saturday’s clash at Hollywoodbets Kings Park.
“Yes, we are facing really tough opposition, but we’re feeling good that we can go out there and perform.”
Leinster have come to South Africa missing a number of stars who have turned out for them recently, many of them Irish internationals and British & Irish Lions to boot. Is this a challenge or opportunity?
“We know that whoever turns out for them, this is going to be a very good Leinster side. Even though they’re not bringing some of their big names, they still have about 10 internationals in their side. So this is a very good squad and nothing changes from our side in terms of preparation.
“We’ve really prepared well for this game because we know this is a quality side, with our without their internationals.”
Buthelezi acknowledges that there have been some big lessons learned in recent times, “Particularly playing well but not showing enough patience and being more careful with ball in hand. We created so many opportunities but ended up not finishing off.
“The learning from the mistakes we made against Edinburgh as quite evident against the Lions, playing in the exact same conditions with the same performance but a different result because we knew we needed to show more patience with those opportunities.
“We definitely learned from that Edinburgh game and now, going forward, we know how to play in those types of conditions.”
Looking at Leinster, he warns that a tough challenge awaits, but one the Cell C Sharks are certainly up for.
“Leinster like to keep the ball in hand, they like to take the ball through multiple phases and we know we’re in for a big game. But in typical Durban conditions, it’s tough to hold on to the ball for long periods of time and we know defensively we’re going to have to stand up on Saturday.”
Given the local doom and gloom surrounding the devastation caused by the recent flooding, Buthelezi admits that this game is all about bringing happiness.
“As a province, we’ve been through a lot in the past week, it’s something we’ve spoken about and we have a wonderful opportunity on Saturday to make everyone happy. We’re expecting our fans to come out in numbers and it’s going to be an awesome day to be a Cell C Sharks rugby supporter. “What’s happened recently is extra motivation for us to make people happy. People want to come to the stadium and see something positive, they want to see us working hard, they want to see us scoring some amazing tries and that’s what we aim to do as a team.”