Bradley Barritt has departed the Sharks’ shores for another team in Black & White, Saracens in the UK, but his heart will never be far from Durban and the team where he enjoyed some of the best times of his life.
“Obviously representing the Sharks on each occasion has been really special and an honour for me, having grown-up supporting the Sharks,” he explains to Michael Marnewick of www.sharksrugby.co.za. “Initially I was a bit ‘star-struck’ playing with guys I idolised as a kid, but the Sharks is a really friendly happy place and I was made to feel at home very quickly. And the initial faith shown in me by Dick Muir was really what allowed me to take my chance.
“John Plumtree is also an amazing coach and has really shown his class during the Absa Currie Cup having brought together a campaign which was initially really shaky. He and Grant Bashford have a great working relationship as well as with the rest of the management. And the guys respect him, because they want to, not just because they have to.
“The team initially struggled with player losses and injuries. However, the policies brought in by Plum and Bashie showed what teamwork can really do and guys playing for each other and the Sharks brand, this brought about a selflessness in each player and since then the campaign just rose and rose.”
As a fourth generation provincial rugby player and the first to play in a final, he admits that, “It’s a nice achievement, and I know my family are really proud. I am so grateful for all their support, and I have learnt a lot from them.”
We put it to Brad that having lost to the Bulls in the Super 14 final in 2007, while no-one likes to talk of revenge as that can shift the focus, surely there was an element of there being unfinished business with this final? Just how much of a motivating factor was this going into the Currie Cup Final?
“I know a lot of people were thinking like that, but quite honestly, we as a team put that behind us some time ago,” he points out. “Sure it may still hurt, but this was a new challenge, a new team and a different tournament and it was a privilege to have a home final as my last game before I left.”
He puts down an element of the team’s success to a core of players remaining together over the past few years, explaining that, “Well I think there was a great nucleus of guys that all came through at the same time. Think back to 2006 we had largely an under 20 backline, which combined with the experienced guys at the time, was a great blend and healthy team dynamic which does convert into success down the line.”
As one of the “babies” in the team (maybe not so much now), he was recognised as a leader, even called the midfield general, but he points to the influence the older players in the team had on his development.
“I have been really fortunate having had played with and learnt so much from a number of great players. There have been leaders like John Smit, Bob Skinstad, AJ Venter and Johann Muller that I have learnt a lot from. However, being a backline player, the guys that really had a huge influence on me as a player and who helped me were initially Percy Montgomery who I had a huge amount of respect for, then Tony Brown who joined us on the Super 14 tour and he really took time to help me grow as a player especially since I played half that super 14 season at flyhalf.
“Then of course Butchie who was amazing as a player and friend on and off the field, who really helped me. Strangely enough he also came to help me and our team before the Under18 Craven week in 2004!”
He admits that in his three years with the Sharks, having earned 66 caps in the Vodacom Super 14 and Absa Currie Cup, there have really been a number of highlights, “but the ones that truly stand out, were my first cap against the Chiefs where the crowd made me feel so welcome and I can just remember the butterflies buzzing inside me.
“Also making the Super 14 final in 2007, where our team had been playing so well the whole season and had just gelled on and off the field. Then captaining the Sharks on two occasions this year during the Currie cup 2008 and being selected for the South African u21 and Emerging Springboks sides.”
But it is obvious that the big one is winning the Absa Currie Cup Final.
“Finals never tend to be great spectacles of rugby and this was a tough, hard-fought game and I think we did most of the playing so the result was justified,” he explains.
“There was a lot of pressure and talk that the Sharks are chokers, so it’s nice to give one back to the fans and to ourselves. It was a great day for the Sharks with the Under 19s winning as well. Everyone is proud of the team and I’m just happy to have been involved.”
Having played much of his rugby with Waylon Murray from schoolboy days to the present time, he will have to form new partnerships at Saracens, something that takes time.
“Waylon and I go way back,” he explains, “we played Primary Schools Craven week together and together throughout High School for KZN teams and played against each other a lot, through a bitter rivalry between Kearsney and Westville. And then playing consistently together at Sharks level for 3 years now had been really special.
We are great friends and have an amazing understanding both on and off the field, and hopefully we will play together in the future.”
Finally, he talks of the impact that French International Frederic Michalak had during the season and despite the initial language barrier, he was a perfect fit.
“Fred has been a huge hit, both on and off the field,” he admits. “He is a special player and great person, and he has been a huge asset to the Sharks family; I think we have all loved having him around. His English has come on considerably and he know knows most of the slang as well, which is quite amusing. And I wish him well back in France.”
In closing, he adds, “I would like to take this opportunity to thank the whole Sharks family, from the Executives, to the Administration Staff, to the Management, and especially the Players. I have had incredible memories that I will never forget and I will always consider the Shark Tank my home.
“And last but not least the fans who in my opinion are the most loyal and dedicated in the country, thank you for all your support and to let you know you have a huge impact on the team and our success. May your support continue and grow!!!”Tweet