Waratahs No.8 Wycliff Palu gave AJ Venter the hardest tackle of his life, says the Sharks backrower.
Rupert Guiness writes on RugbyHeaven Aus that after Waratahs No.8 Wycliff Palu executed a bone-crushing hit on AJ Venter, laying the Sharks back-rower flat in Sydney last month, the question most fans were left asking was: “How would that have felt?”
Yesterday, with that round-11 clash behind them and the Sharks back in the country to play the Waratahs in Saturday night’s semi-final at the Sydney Football Stadium, Venter was willing to provide the answer.
“I can just say this: the tackle Palu gave me was definitely the hardest tackle I have ever had in my life,” he said.
So hard, Venter even congratulated Palu after getting up. “Of course,” he said of his gesture. “That was a great tackle. So I said, ‘Well done’, and ran off. It was just physically hard. He lined me up and took me well.”
Coming from a player known for dishing out his own brand of punishment on the paddock, Venter’s praise says something about Palu’s hit in the 53rd minute of a game the Waratahs went on to win 25-10.
NSW were ahead 8-3 and inside the opposition half when Sharks fullback Stefan Terblanche took a quick tap on their 22-metre line. He passed right to Venter, who had not strode 10 metres with the ball before Palu charged in on him.
The impact forced Venter’s head to reel back so violently it was amazing he didn’t suffer whiplash. It also caused the ball to pop from his grip and to the ground for the Waratahs to steal a turnover.
Five phases later and, with the Waratahs 10m from the Sharks line, Palu was again in full flight with the ball after a deft offload from hooker Adam Freier, and he barrelled over winger Odwa Ndungane to score near the posts.
After Kurtley Beale’s conversion, the Sharks were suddenly staring at a 15-3 scoreline which they could not turn around.
Venter, 34, would relish the chance to repay Palu with one of his own hits at the SFS on Saturday night. “We will se how that goes,” he said. “Hopefully, I will get an opportunity.
However Venter, who has already re-signed with the Sharks to play another season, sees the far bigger prize.
He is one of two Sharks to have played in the past three of their five previous finals series appearances, including two losses in finals – last year at home to the Bulls and in 2001 to the Brumbies.
It would be an understatement to say that winning a Super 14 title is something the former Springbok, who stood down from international rugby with 25 caps early last year, is desperate to achieve before retiring for good.
Losing last year’s final 19-20 in Durban – when Bulls winger Bryan Habana scored the matchwinning try in the 82nd minute – has only heightened that desperation. “I can tell that it was probably the worst experience of my life because of the way it happened,” Venter said.
And he knows a ticket to this year’s final will not be easily earned, especially against a side led by Phil Waugh, who will become only the fourth player to earn 100 caps for NSW when the team is named today.
Venter has fought many battles with Waugh, and has also toured with him with the Barbarians.
“Apart from being a great openside flanker, he is a good leader. That is possibly his best attribute,” Venter said. “When he is not there, I always feel like they lack a bit of leadership. When Phil is there, people follow him.”Tweet