April gets his break

2016-05-06 06:00
PHOTO: gallo images Garth April takes part during a Sharks training session at King’s Park in Durban earlier this week.

PHOTO: gallo images Garth April takes part during a Sharks training session at King’s Park in Durban earlier this week.

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GARTH April, the young Sharks flyhalf, says he will not be overawed by the importance of the occasion on Saturday when for the first time he starts a Super Rugby game in front of his home crowd at King’s Park.

The Sharks face a rampant Hurricanes outfit fresh from their 50-point rout of the Lions at Ellis Park and April will be up against All Black flyhalf Beauden Barrett in what is considered a must-win home game for the Sharks.

Head coach Gary Gold has confirmed that April will start with captain Pat Lambie — returning after an extended injury layoff, playing off the bench.

The Sharks are currently five points behind the Lions in their African conference after nine games and Lambie believes the next three games — against the Hurricanes, the Jaguares in Buenos Aires and then the Kings back in Durban before their second bye and the June international break — are crucial to their chances of reaching the playoffs.

April is looking no further ahead than Saturday.

“The Hurricanes will be a massive challenge for us,” he said, “but I will play my natural game.”

The 24-year-old April described the Hurricanes as a “world-class team” but he is excited by the challenge.

“Getting a chance to play in a game against a side like this is why I had the ambition to be a professional rugby player.

“We are hungry for a good homecoming after our tour but saw in the Hurricanes’ game against the Lions that you just can’t allow them to get into their stride.”

Gold promoted April off the bench a fortnight ago, switching him with the steady Joe Pietersen who, in turn, had taken over from Lambie when the Sharks flyhalf went down with a serious injury on the pre-season tour of France.

April’s first start was against the Highlanders on tour and he calmly landed all five of his goalkicks in the 15-14 win. He scored a sublime individual try in his second outing against the Chiefs and showed deft touches in taking the ball to the line though there were also several unforced errors.

April knows that Springbok Lambie will return as the first-choice flyhalf in the weeks ahead but, for the moment, he holds centre stage.

Gold, who was impressed with April on the pre-season tour to France, said it was always part of the plan to play the slightly-built flyhalf off the bench and bring him slowly before throwing him into the frontline on the trip to New Zealand.

“I am just glad I had opportunities on tour to show what I can do,” said April, who weighs in at 80 kg and is the smallest player in the Sharks squad.

“It was not easy to take the step up after such a long time on the sidelines, but I had been told by the coaches that my chance would come at some stage, and when it did it was up to me to make the most of it.”

The well-travelled April was born in Cape Town and represented Boland and the Lions in the junior ranks before making his Vodacom Cup debut for Western Province early in 2015. He was playing for Western Province amateur club side Durbanville-Bellville when the Sharks contracted him a year ago.

“I have always known that I wanted a career in rugby, so it is a case of just doing what I have loved doing since I started playing the game at the age of 12. I have learned to be patient, and having to wait my turn in New Zealand made me appreciate the opportunity when it came all the more.”

He has also benefited from having experienced players helping in his development.

“Pat [Lambie] has given me a lot of encouragement and on tour I was given some very good advice by scrumhalf Michael Claassens.

“Willie le Roux has also contributed and I have been grateful for the opportunity to learn from them. They have encouraged me to back my decision-making,” said April.

Possession will be in short supply at King’s Park on Saturday and the spotlight will be on April who has a key role to play in balancing the Sharks’ running and kicking game.

Kickoff is at 3 pm with South African Marius van der Westhuizen the referee.

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