Good news, Sharks fans. JP Pietersen will be fit to take his place this weekend in the crunch match against the Crusaders in Durban. Sharksworld caught up with the competition’s top try-scorer for a quick chat.
“We drowned our sorrows on Monday,” JP says of the squad’s reaction to the disappointment of losing in Bloemfontein, “but we came back with a good session on Tuesday and we’re back on track.” The team is committed to not dwelling on the past, because that can’t be changed. “We’re hurting and want to put it right this weekend,” he says. “We’re still very positive that we can go all the way and win this competition.”
Positivity and self-belief are never in short supply when it comes to Pietersen, though, as he himself admits. Talking of his early rugby career, he says that “I didn’t come through the usual route – going to one of the big rugby schools or playing for the SA Schools team. But I always had a great amount of passion and a real will to wear the jersey and join my heroes in the provincial team. That is what got me here and what keeps me going.” His advice to aspiring players is very similar: “Just believe in yourself and don’t ever give up on your dream.”
Our discussion inevitably turns towards what was, by JP’s own standards, a disappointing 2008 campaign, particularly in the Super 14, where he failed to score a single try. Ever honest, he’s the first to admit that, “I didn’t prepare well for the 2008 season. I was tired after a very busy and emotional 2007 season – I had played a lot of rugby and it was difficult to come down to earth after the World Cup.” The lessons learned were carried forward, though and he was determined not to make the same mistakes in 2009; six tries in seven starts this year paints a picture of a player who has his hunger and focus back, in no short supply.
Looking forward to this weekend’s game, Pietersen feels the recipe for success is a simple one. “We’ve got to keep the ball and create opportunities in their 22,” he says. “If we don’t respect the ball and give them possession, we will lose.” He doesn’t buy the argument that the Sharks have a problem with creating tries themselves. “We have all the right players in the right positions, ” he says, “so many talented guys who can make things happen. We just need to concentrate on working together as a team – communicating a bit better – and the opportunities will come.”
Looking ahead, JP is completely focused on winning a Super 14 medal with the Sharks. Facing the British Lions is another goal this season and although he doesn’t want to look too far ahead, staying in South Africa with the Sharks, at least until after the 2011 World Cup is very much in JP’s thinking at this stage. The future looks bright indeed for the Sharks and Springboks with the big former lock in menacing form and hungry for tries. He assures me that his return to the second row for the last few minutes against the Blues earlier this year was indeed a one-off occurrence, though. “My past really caught up with me there,” he quips.
Catch up with JP’s latest news on his official website, www.jppietersen.co.za. We’d like to thank him for his time and wich him and the team all the best for the game on Saturday.Tweet