Sharksworld managed to corner Sharks XV winger Mark Richards for a quick chat this afternoon. The 20-year-old speedster was one of the standout players for the fifteen against Province last weekend and we thought we’d give you all a chance to get to know him a little better.
So how does a guy from Springs end up with the Sharks anyway? “I lived in a lot of places when I was growing up”, Richards says, “starting in Springs and then going on to Newcastle and Ladysmith before ending up in Nottingham Road”. Richards attended Clifton Preparatory in the sleepy midlands town before going on to Michaelhouse, where his Sharks journey started. “I played in the same team as Ross and Guy Cronje [in Matric] and we had a good year – we only lost the one game to Maritzburg College. The Sharks Academy came and did a presentation at Michaelhouse and since I had decided I wanted to make rugby my career, I applied”.
Michaelhouse has been a particularly fertile breeding ground for Sharks talent of late. “Pat Cilliers and Mike Rhodes were two years ahead of me,” Richards reveals, “while Patrick Lambie was the year below me”. Once he had established himself in the setup, Richards went on to become a key member of the KZN Under 19 side that won the trophy in 2008. “I played 14 for that team – it was a very special team and we were all close. There was no concept of juniors and seniors in that side which made it a lot easier for us to gel as a team”.
After another mostly successful season with the under 21s last year (the KZN team unfortunately lost in the final) Richards has fought off some stiff competition to claim the right wing jersey in this years Sharks XV team. We chatted a bit about the season so far.
“The first game against Border was a pretty easy game and there wasn’t a lot of pressure on us because of the small crowd that turned up to watch. It was mostly family and friends. I think that counted against us a little bit when we faced Province last week, though. We knew that they were going to be a lot tougher than Border, but I don’t think we really appreciated how much we needed to raise our game. They caught us by surprise a bit and before we knew it we were chasing the game.”
Mark assures us that the team knows what went wrong and laments the missed opportunities that ultimately cost the Sharks XV the game. “We felt we were the better side for most of the game, but just didn’t finish them off. We’ll work on that for next week. We’ve got a really strong side this year and I feel that we must be in with a shot of winning the Vodacom Cup.” Facing Free State in Empangeni this weekend will bring its own set of challenges, but the team is looking forward to playing in front of a small, but fanatical home crowd.
“It’s just a nice field to play on,” he says, “and we’re hoping the people that are there will all really get behind us. It’s a small stadium, so you don’t need lots of people to make it feel full!” The team have worked hard on their defence this week, because they feel that aspect of the game really let them down in the first half against Province. “We’re also concentrating on net getting ahead of ourselves, “he reveals, “because we beat them quite easily in the warm up game a few weeks ago. We know that they’re bringing a different side and this will be a whole new challenge. It’s important to get that result out of our heads”.
Looking to the future, Mark Richards is committed to the Sharks and wants to play his rugby in Durban going forward. “I’d really like to get a few Currie Cup games under my belt this year and then make the Super 14 squad next year,” he tells us. Asked about whether his relative lack of stature might count against him, he quips “if Shane Williams, who is the same size as me could win IRB player of the year, then I don’t think it’s too much of a problem. I just need to keep working hard to show the coaches that being any bigger wouldn’t make me any better.”
We’d like to thank Mark for his time and wish him and the team all the best for the coming season.Tweet