Following a good start after beating the Vodacom Blue Bulls at home on Saturday, the Cell C Sharks will go into Saturday’s clash against the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein with a measure of confidence but also some trepidation.
Confidence after an emphatic bonus point victory against a very strong Blue Bulls’ side, but trepidation knowing that Free State, with two losses in their opening two games of the competition will be looking to bounce back against the Cell C Sharks in their home town.
Lock Tyler Paul, speaking about what’s gone and what lies ahead, reflects back on week one with pride.
“It is a short Currie Cup and we know we can’t afford any of our home games, but it was a good start for us, even if it wasn’t perfect. A few things didn’t go our way, but we can’t ask for more than five log points out of our first game of the tournament.”
As an important part of the Vodacom Super Rugby campaign, he now finds himself with an even bigger role to play as one of the more experienced players, albeit the fact that he’s still fairly new to the setup and only 23 years old. But contribute he must; he is well aware of the need for consistently good performances.
“As soon as you think you own the jersey, someone else could take it away from you. So that’s not a good philosophy and therefore my goal in the Currie Cup is to perform week in and week out, that’s the most important thing and never to settle.
“I just want to perform well every week without looking too far ahead at next year’s Super Rugby competition. Right now the focus is on the Currie Cup.”
Looking back on the performance against the Blue Bulls pack, he admits that is was a very satisfying effort.
“It was enjoyable to give the Bulls a bit of their own medicine.”
Free State come into this game off the back of two losses, and to exacerbate their Currie Cup woes, will be without their frontline players who will be doing duty in the Pro 14 Competition. But a wounded animal is dangerous and the players who face up to the Cell C Sharks would love nothing better than to down their rivals.
But complacency is no issue, says Paul.
“We’re playing away from home and Bloemfontein is never an easy place to win, so we know what we’re up against. We’ve been speaking through the week about regardless of the team they put out, we still have to prepare the same way. If they field a weaker side we will still prepare as we do every week, the best we can.”
Talking preparation, the transition from Vodacom Super Rugby to Currie Cup has not been particularly different, aside from the new personnel that come in to replace those on Springbok or Japanese duty.
“There hasn’t be a whole lot of change,” he explains. “That’s nice because nothing is foreign to the players in the squad. And we’ll look to sort out the things we didn’t get right in Super Rugby now. Building for the future means doing well in this Currie Cup and we’ll look to perform as best we can.”