Ex-Blue Bull Potgieter believes ‘sharks have the right mix’

2010-12-28 00:00

THE Sharks’ fresh approach and their high-tempo brand of rugby has been warmly endorsed by their new signing, Blue Bulls flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter.

The 26-year-old Potgieter, now happily settled in Durban with his family, joined the Sharks squad in their pre-season training and is now enjoying a Christmas break before the players return early in the new year.

Potgieter believes the Sharks’ positive game plan, based on forward power and a ball-in-the-hand approach, will prove successful in the Super 15.

“The Sharks have the right mix between the New Zealand and South African styles,” he told Michael Marnewick, the Sharks’ website editor.

He said that the Sharks’ Currie Cup triumph was vindication of their approach.

“They beat a full-strength Blue Bulls side in the semi-final and that’s a big feather in their cap; a win against a team rated as one of the best provincial sides in the world and the Super 14 champions. That was a huge achievement.”

The former Free State and Blue Bulls player is delighted with the new law interpretations which favour the attacking team.

“It has made the game more of a spectacle. You’re going to get good crowds as well because it’s running rugby, rugby that people want to see — not kick and chase, kick and chase.

“Obviously there are times when you have to kick, but I’m all for keeping the ball in hand, I love it. It’s how we played at the Cheetahs and I’m looking forward to playing it again,” said Potgieter.

He said that topping the Currie Cup log, and playing many of their matches without their Springboks, confirmed the depth in the Sharks squad.

Ironically, Potgieter was signed from the Blue Bulls by the Sharks early in July when coach John Plumtree was already looking ahead to the next Super competition and was desperate to contract an influential flyhalf.

Plumtree had lost Juan Hernandez and Steve Meyer on the eve of the Super 14, and a late signing, English journeyman Andy Goode, was a temporary measure.

But the situation changed within the first few weeks of the Currie Cup. Pat Lambie was switched from fullback to flyhalf via inside centre and the move proved a massive success as the 19-year-old quickly made a name for himself. By the end of the year he had become a Springbok.

Potgieter, playing his rugby in Pretoria in the shadow of Bok flyhalf Morne Steyn, was desperate to play Super rugby as a first-choice flyhalf. Gaining selection for the World Cup squad next year was his goal and he saw an opening with the Sharks. That door is now no longer wide open and he will now compete with Lambie for the flyhalf berth.

But the former Bull believes the nature of the new Super 15 competition, one which stretches over six months and involves more than 16 games, will provide him with chances.

Player rotation, he said, would be critical to retain the freshness of mind and body among the players.

“As the first season of the new competition it’s going to be interesting and the timing of rotation critical,” he said. “I think a team with a good rotational policy will really benefit from it.”

And, like Lambie, he can also play at centre and fullback.

Potgieter has been impressed with the atmosphere and the organisation at King’s Park.

“It’s a lot like the Bulls with the same kind of family focus here with strong bonds. There is a good thing going on here. The training is similar, a lot of fitness and conditioning work. It’s really top notch and Mark Steele is a really good conditioner and what I like is that everyone is able to offer their opinion.

“And having just won the Currie Cup, there is obviously something great going on.Not many teams have won the trophy twice in three years.”

He is also enjoying the change in scenery.

“I must say, waking up and seeing the ocean every morning is a great sight and my wife really enjoys it. Aside from the two years I spent with Free State in Bloemfontein, I’ve lived in Pretoria all my life where there is traffic and no ocean.”

Lambie and Potgieter are physically well matched. Lambie, at 1,77 metres and 92 kg, is chunkier than Potgieter (1,77 metres and 89 kg) and both are strong on their feet.

While Lambie, with vision, a willingness to attack the gainline and an excellent passing game, appears tailor-made for the Sharks’ fresh style of rugby, Potgieter still has to show that he can adapt and flourish.

But Plumtree, for one, will sleep easier knowing he has two quality flyhalves on tap.

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