A blessing in disguise

2014-09-18 00:00

SHARKS flyhalf Fred Zeilinga believes the absence of some older players has been a blessing in disguise for the young side.

Zeilinga got his first taste of Currie Cup rugby last year and had some experienced heads to help him. However, the Sharks are without their Springboks and have lost the likes of Keegan Daniel and others to overseas clubs this year.

“I think the experience helps a bit. Obviously last year it was a bit easier playing with more senior players around. This year I am left to stand on my own two feet, but I think it brings out the best in me, brings out my better character and helps me grow as a player,” Zeilinga said.

The Sharks side have welcomed a number of new faces and their style of play has differed greatly from their Super Rugby campaign. Zeilinga believes this has been a big challenge for the side.

“It’s been two different game plans, two different circumstances and it’s a different team as well. This year has seen a lot of new guys come in and some of us are still trying to settle in and understand the guys they are playing with.”

Being the defending Currie Cup champions also brings some added pressure, but the young halfback thinks of it positively.

“It brings out the best in the players so we can only get better from here on out,” he said.

The 21-year-old has been especially proficient with the boot this season and has nailed some really long kicks. Zeilinga is also the second highest point scorer (63) in the competition behind Pumas flyhalf Justin van Staden (64).

“I’m feeling like I’m kicking much better at goal. The first game was the only one I struggled a little bit. Other than that, I have been striking the ball nicely and that’s where I have been able to get those long- range penalty kicks, where I wasn’t able to do that last year,” he said.

Looking at the last four rounds of the Currie Cup, the Sharks have an uphill struggle and basically require wins from every fixture. That starts this weekend with a clash against the Bulls at Loftus Versveld.

“We’ve got a plan in place. To win all the games going forward is ultimately our goal. It’s not going to be easy playing the Bulls and Province away, but it’s certainly doable. We’ve done it before and there is no reason we can’t do it again,” he said.

Looking at his own game, Zeilinga said he is working on his running game and is trying to develop some “x-factor”. He has at times played a bit deep in the pocket and it will be interesting to see if he can play flatter to open up attacking options.

“I think it’s [Sharks’ attack] getting much better. Especially against the Cheetahs, we were able to set up a lot more phases than the other games. In the last half we got to six or eight phases and that’s ultimately when you start to break down defences so it’s a huge positive for our attacking ability.”

The Sharks will have to mix that attacking mind-set with a useful tactical kicking plan to dismantle the Bulls this weekend. Kick-off is at 5.05 pm.

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