'I don’t have fear’

2014-04-16 00:00

PLAYING without fear, and being given the licence to express himself has seen outside-centre S’bura Sithole become an important part in the Sharks’ quest as they chase this season’s Super Rugby title.

When Paul Jordaan got injured earlier in the season, Sithole was given the opportunity to play in the number 13 jersey, and he has grabbed it with both hands, and coach Jake White has stuck with him.

With Jordaan back and keen to get his place in the team back, Sithole put in a man-of-the-match performance when the Sharks beat the Lions at Ellis Park in Johannesburg last week, which would have pleased the coach who appreciated the strong competition for places within the team.

Playing as a winger last season, the 23-year-old wasn’t able to cement his place in the side with the experienced pair of Odwa Ndungane and Lwazi Mvovo occupying the wings.

But, before the season started, White felt Sithole’s ability would suit the team best at inside-centre, and that’s where the Queenstown-born flyer has made his mark during the Sharks’ impressive start to the campaign.

“It’s been great working with Jake White. As a player, there’s nothing better than running onto the field knowing that you’ve got the full backing of your coaching staff. I think that’s what’s also made the difference in the way that I play now. I don’t have fear when I play, I can just run out and express myself,” Sithole said yesterday.

Sithole felt he still had a lot to learn, but his task was made easier with players such as Springboks Ndungane, Mvovo, Frans Steyn and JP Pietersen around him.

“Having guys with 100 caps, and guys with Springbok experience has made things easier for me this season and I’m learning a lot from them,” said Sithole.

In pre-season, Sithole said he did a lot of work on his handling, acknowledging that it was an area that previous coaches had regarded as his weakness.

“I did a lot of work on my hands. Previous people who have coached me said that I’m lacking in my hands, so I took it upon myself to fix it because I thought it was something I could improve on, and I guess me doing that opened up a gap for me to play centre.

“It’s been okay. I’ve been learning a lot from [backline coach Sean Everitt], so every week I’m trying to improve on things I’ve done badly in previous weeks, and so far so good.”

Another area Sithole has been working on this season has been defending the number 13 channel, but with Steyn and Pietersen doing a lot of talking throughout the game, he felt the team had improved.

The Sharks’ defence has been second to none in a season that has so far seen them concede the fewest points, and give away the least number of tries.

That defence will need to be at its best when they take on the second-from-bottom Cheetahs, who strangely enough have scored the most points in the competition.

“Their past few game have been high scoring games, so they’re a team who can score tries and run the ball. We know the defensive challenge we have to put up this weekend.

“We’ve put a lot of work in that, and trying to get out defensive lines right. If we implement all the things we’ve done this week, we can make it an easy weekend for ourselves,” he said.

Having had such a good start to the season, and bagging a man-of-the-match award, does he perhaps have any ambitions to be called up into Heyneke Meyer’s Springbok side?

“Like any South African rugby player, as a young guy, that’s probably everyone’s dream. But for me, that’s not really my focus right now. This is my first proper full Super Rugby season. I’m still learning how to play centre properly as I’m not perfect there. I’m just concentrating now on getting better and just doing well for the Sharks, that’s my main thing now,” he said.

“And if it happens that something like that would come up, then I’ll definitely be more than happy,” the young centre added.

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