Springbok and Sharks flyer JP Pietersen is hoping that the traditional values instilled by coach John Plumtree can inspire the Sharks to end their 12 year trophy drought.
Phil Coetzer, Rugby365.
The Sharks are currently sitting pretty on top of the Currie Cup standings, and are already assured of a home semifinal ahead of their final round-robin clash against Griquas this weekend.
Yet the Durbanites have been in this position many times over the past decade, but have repeatedly failed to seal the deal in both Currie Cup and Super Rugby play-offs since their last trophy success – the 1996 Currie Cup.
“We’re getting better at that [handling the pressure],” Pietersen told rugby365.com in an exclusive interview.
“The experience is coming through from most of the young guys. It’s been a long season, but for me it’s great to be back in the team at this stage.
“It will definitely be great if we can finally bring some silverware back to the team,” Pietersen said.
It was quite notable this week that the second-placed Blue Bulls, also guaranteed a spot in the semifinals, chose to rest many of their key players in their final league match against the Falcons, whereas the Sharks selected a full-strength side.
Pietersen agreed with the tactic, and said that it was coach John Plumtree’s aim to “keep the momentum” going into the semifinals.
“I think it’s the right thing to do. We want to keep the momentum in the team,” the wing confirmed.
“The guys who are starting now, are building up a good feeling for each other, and that helps to settle the way we play.
“If you start let’s say six different guys now, and then six different guys in the semifinal, you won’t know which areas to fix.
“So we’re looking to build that momentum and also take some confidence with us into the semifinals.”
Pietersen also revealed that Plumtree has been a major factor in the Sharks success thus far this year.
The Bok explained that the Kiwi coach has reminded the players of what it means to put on the black and white jersey. In that process, Plumtree has instilled an important team ethos.
“I think the future looks good here at the Sharks. We’ve got so much talent here, and top players in every position,” Pietersen said.
“John Plumtree has done very well for us. He’s instilled in us the importance and the value of playing for the jersey.
“All the players also know that nobody is guaranteed a spot [on the team]. You need to perform week in, week out to keep your spot on the team.
“That keeps everybody on their toes, and reminds us what the real value of the Sharks is.”
Pietersen’s own form has been steadily improving, especially in recent weeks with the Sharks – and the player reckons that this was directly as result of a chance to recuperate earlier in the year.
The World Cup-winning wing had a long 2007 season which culminated in Paris last October with the Springboks. After that, Pietersen suffered a dip in form in the 2008 Super 14, and the problem was eventually addressed by Springbok coach Peter de Villiers, who gave the player a chance to rest his weary body and get back into top shape away from the rugby field.
“I don’t think there’s really a secret [to great form]. It was more a case of my body being tired and needing a break [after the Super 14],” Pietersen admitted.
“[Springbok coach] Peter [de Villiers] gave me a break before the incoming tours, and I followed a conditioning program, which got me back on track.
“At that time there were a few people such as [Springbok conditioning coach] Neels Liebel that also helped me to think about the game in a different way, and work out where I can improve.
“It’s all about staying fresh and getting your confidence back.”
Perhaps an invigorated Pietersen is exactly what the Sharks will need to get their hands on that elusive Currie Cup.Tweet