Sharks centre Adi Jacobs set the Springbok midfield alight this year with an emphatic return to form, and spoke to rugby365.com’s Nick Pawson about the adjustment back into his winning provincial union.
The 28-year-old started his provincial career at the Falcons (when Peter de Villiers was at the helm) in 2000, and along with midfield partner Ettiene Botha, was the driving force behind the Falcons surge into the Top Eight, only narrowly missing the play-offs that year.
He played at Super 12 level for the Cats and Bulls respectively, and made his Springbok debut in 2001 against Italy – although came to be regarded in rugby circles as a super-sub.
Jacobs joined the Sharks in 2004, but got lost in the wilderness for a number of years until his career revival under the tutelage of Dick Muir from 2006.
It was only during the latter part of this year’s Super 14 that Jacobs began to make the starting XV for the Sharks – unveiling some scintillating form which led to a recall to the Springbok squad in a new era under his first provincial mentor.
Having come off the Sharks’ replacement bench last Saturday against the Cheetahs, Jacobs looks forward to a more permanent role in his union’s quest for Currie Cup glory, and is gleaming at the prospect of slotting back into a side clearly on a wining path.
“I think it’s very exciting for us [Springboks] to slot back in, especially after the guys have done all the work,” Jacobs told rugby365.com on Tuesday.
“It’s been a great stepping stone for us and now we can stamp our authority on the Currie Cup.
“I’m hoping to slot back in with Fransie [Steyn] this weekend, and really looking forward to having a permanent role next to him at outside centre for the coming games and maybe the semifinals and finals.
“John [Plumtree] is happy with what the Sharks have achieved but also really wants us [Boks] back, obviously to help him and be some of his frontline players.”
With the Sharks en route to securing a home semifinal, they’ll be looking for maximum points from here on in, with their away fixture against the Lions next weekend perhaps posing the only threat in their Currie Cup war path.
“We don’t need to get ahead of ourselves,” said Jacobs.
“We’ve been through this in the Super 14 – we just have to focus on the game ahead and take the points. We’re looking forward to the Lions, but the Falcons this weekend is going to be a great mental battle, playing at a new stadium [in Kempton Park].
“These next few weeks are going to be really crucial to see where we end up for the play-offs.”
Securing a home semifinal (or final) is one thing, but the Sharks will need to break their hoodoo surrounding knock-out matches if they plan to lift their first Currie Cup since the Ian McIntosh era of the 1990s.
“I think we’ve grown as a team,” he said.
“We know from the Super 14 that you can’t just run everything, and we’ve now got a very good kicking game going for us at the moment. We were actually beating ourselves by running it too much.
“We know we need to be a bit more conservative but also take those opportunities when they occur, and I think mentally we’re up to that standard now.
“Last weekend when we played the Cheetahs we hadn’t beaten them in five years I think, but we had them on the back foot because I think they were expecting us to run everything.
“I don’t want to get too excited about it yet, but I think we’ve got the armour to beat any side on the day if we stick to our gameplan.”
Although Jacobs is in strong contention to be selected for the Springboks’ November tour to the United Kingdom, his primary focus at this stage is giving his all to the Sharks in their bid for Currie Cup silverware.
“Any rugby player who steps onto the field, myself included, wants to do his best for the union.
“I’ve been here for four or five years, and we haven’t won anything for the union. So now is the time for the senior players to step in and pay the union back for what they’ve done for us over the years.
“If I make the end of year tour knowing I’ve had a lot of game-time and done well and maybe have a Cup under my belt, it would definitely be one of the highlights of my career,” Jacobs added.Tweet