The Cell C Sharks have enjoyed some good form of late, looking to close out the pool stages in style ahead of the upcoming Vodacom Super Rugby play-offs with the final three weeks left to contest first.
Cell C Sharks assistant coach Nick Easter attributes the change of form from earlier inconsistent play to the point where the team has put together four very good performances to a number of factors.
“The guys have been continually striving to improve this season,” he explains. “There were a few new systems and foundations put in place at the start of the year and it takes time to bed them in.
“We also spent a lot of time together on tour and made good use of that time. We were together, had the tools, there weren’t any distractions and it wasn’t just about rugby, the players got the opportunity to understand each other. We bonded well and that creates trust when you’re under pressure and you start to care for one another. We were disappointed not to beat the Crusaders and should have won it but when you’re in the contest, you’re doing something right.”
The Cell C Sharks have enjoyed good form against the New Zealand sides in particular and Easter puts this down to the age-old competitiveness between two proud rugby nations.
“There’s an intense healthy rivalry between South African and New Zealand sides, there’s something exciting about playing a team from another country, with different philosophies and styles.
The Cell C Sharks rise in form may not be purely attributable to the return to action from injury of powerful and influential players like Ruan Botha, Jean-Luc du Preez and Philip van der Walt. But they have certainly contributed in great measure to the team’s cause since coming back into the side.
“We’ve had to use the whole squad a lot this year, which is great for the Union, but when you get quality players like that, it just bolsters the team,” Easter explains. “Ruan has been fantastic with his leadership and physicality; he’s a calm head under pressure. Philip is another calm guy who’s got really stuck in and Jean-Luc has massive X-factor as far as the physicality is concerned and he gives great belief to the forward pack.
“You get those top quality players back, it makes a big difference.”
As a former flank himself, Easter has been impressed with the quality and effectiveness of the Cell C Sharks loose-forward combination. “It’s exciting working with these guys and their potential. We’re still not there in terms of maximising and getting the best out of them, but there have been massive improvements collectively and individually this year and that’s what we continue to do, every single week.
This week it’s the final match against New Zealand opposition in the pool stages, when we welcome the Hurricanes to JONSSON KINGS PARK on Saturday.
“They’ll be highly motivated,” he warns. They’re familiar with Durban, John Plumtree played and coached here, so this isn’t foreign territory for them.”