‘Banana Boy’ thrilled to play in Currie Cup

2014-08-27 00:00

ALTHOUGH the Sharks are no longer known as the Banana Boys, one of their newest recruits may as well be called one despite his having being away from Durban for so long.

Former English and British and Irish Lions prop Matt Stevens joined the Sharks for this year’s Currie Cup and is relishing his time back in South Africa after 13 years in England.

“The Sharks family is a very welcoming place. You can just tell there’s a lot of humility around here with new people coming in. As long as you’re willing to work hard, they’re very keen to look after you,” Stevens said.

“Just looking at Durban as a whole, we’ve been very happy with how things have gone. We moved into our house, and it’s been great. The city has developed so much in the 13 years that I’ve been away. Durban is a real jewel that people don’t get to see,” he said.

The laid-back attitude of Durban seems to suit Stevens, who is friendly and quirky. However, he is here to play rugby and is really taking to his first taste of the Currie Cup.

“It’s been a long-awaited 13 years that I haven’t had a chance to play in it. It’s great to be back here, and it’s met all the expectations. As the tournament goes, we know it’s going to get tougher, and sides are going to get more challenging as they come together as a group. We just hope we can match them with the same degree of intensity,” he said.

Stevens says a big change of pace is the number of big players compared with Northern Hemisphere rugby.

“What South Africa has no shortage of is big, strong athletes.

“Obviously, with the type of weather that we experienced, we probably spent a lot more time on mauling and scrummaging, but the physical bulk and prowess of the guys you’re playing against is of a very high level,” he said.

Despite that, Stevens is impressed with the Sharks, especially seeing that the team are young and had only a week to prepare for the Currie Cup.

“I think we are building on performances very well. Just talking about the scrum and the lineout, the detail is coming together, as it will after being thrown together at the beginning of the Currie Cup and having to develop a game plan very quickly,” he said.

Considering the first match against the Pumas which the Sharks won, Stevens is expecting another physical battle when they face them on Friday night.

“The Pumas are a big, heavy, well-conditioned pack. They have got a really good scrum, and that will be a challenge. They play attritional, round-the-corner rugby. If you don’t stop them in your tracks and they get their tails up, they can be very dangerous,” he said.

Stevens expects the Pumas to be looking for a win, considering that their match in Durban was evenly matched. However, he says his team-mates are looking forward to the clash.

“Going up to Nelspruit, the boys are very keen. We’ve worked hard all week, and hopefully we will get the win,” Stevens said.

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