Former Cheetahs and Bulls flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter has been somewhat of a nemesis of the Sharks in recent years, often spurring those teams on to heartbreaking victories over our side in the past few years. The good news for fans of the black and white is that he’s now on our side, having signed a 3-year deal with the Sharks starting from 2011. Sharksworld caught up with Jacques-Louis for a quick chat.
Sharksworld: Firstly, welcome to Durban and the Sharks! Can you tell us how well you’re settling in so far?
Jacques-Louis: Well, it’s really different from the Pretoria scene! There are a lot of surfers here – and we’ve got the ocean to look at every morning. It’s got a completely different vibe. I’ve lived in Pretoria basically my whole life – apart from the two years I spent in Bloem. Pretoria is very Afrikaans, whereas this is English the whole day! It just takes a bit of getting used to – luckily my wife’s here with me, which makes it a bit easier to settle in.
SW: And what made you decide to swap Pretoria for Blomefontein for those two years?
JL: It was probably just about opportunity – just to try something different. I wanted to explore a bit. I’m not a guy who will sit at one union and just wait for a chance to play. For me it was easy – just like coming to Durban – I just said here’s an opportunity, so I packed up my stuff and said I’m going to try it.
SW: And the decision to head back to Pretoria for 2010? What prompted that?
JL: I knew that they would win the Super 14 again and they also asked me to come back. The fact that my wife and I are both from Pretoria and that I’d stand a good chance of winning a Super 14 title made it an easy decision to make. I signed there for a year, just to see what happens – and also to keep a back door open, in case of another opportunity – either overseas or at another local union. I didn’t think I was going to leave again – in the back of my mind I thought I was going to sign a year contract and then negotiate another year or two after that.
SW: So what happened with the Sharks?
JL: When I was still at the Cheetahs, I met with John Plumtree and Rudolf Straeuli and they said they were really interested in me – they were looking at [Juan Martin] Hernandez and me at that stage. Right back then I told them that I was either going to join the Sharks or the Bulls for 2010 – it would definitely be one of those two. So they signed Hernandez and I went to the Bulls, but there was interest from the Sharks side way before I went back to the Bulls. When we [the Bulls] played the Sharks in Pretoria this year in the Super 14, John just said he wanted to meet up and I was open-minded… Just two weeks before the Super 14 final he called me and I said I would come up during the Currie Cup pre-season and we could sit and have a chat. Two weeks after the Super 14 final we met up and reached an agreement – and well, I’ve signed, so basically it went well!
SW: And was there any sort of commitment made about you being the starting flyhalf if you came?
JL: I don’t think a coach can ever guarantee you a spot – anything can happen and there are a lot of scenarios in rugby and things that can change. So I just came here to do my best and obviously there’s a lot of interest – they’re not going to give me a contract and then just leave me out! Just the commitment of signing me for three years said a lot. In fact, that three-year commitment really clinched it for me.
SW: At the time you signed, the Sharks were really struggling at flyhalf. Pat Lambie has since stood up and really played well, though. Do you think that might complicate things?
JL: He’s been playing well, but that wasn’t the case when I signed and it wasn’t a thing that I could see coming. One thing I can say, though, is that I’ve been playing rugby for a while now and I know how to get myself into a team. My feeling is that if you’re going to pick a team that you want to win a title with, you’re really going to have to get a specialised kicker in. Just running the ball in every game isn’t going to work and there are going to be games when you’ve got a crucial kick to win the match and that’s when you want a good kicker with the pedigree to take aim at the posts. I feel I definitely have a lot to contribute to the team from that perspective.
SW: How do you think the Sharks style of play will suit you?
JL: They play a lot more like the Cheetahs do. When I got to the Bulls, it’s a far more kicking-based game and thankfully I can kick! I’m more of a runner, though and when I started running at the Bulls, nobody was really switched on to run from your 22, let’s say. The Sharks approach to the game is a little bit more my style – keeping the ball in hand and taking opportunities, not always to kick the ball away when you’re in a certain situation.
SW: How about the drop-goal that you put over to knock the Sharks out of the 2009 Currie Cup? Any of your new team mates giving you a bit of stick about that?
JL: If somebody chirps me, I’m not really too bothered. It’s something that happened. I was lucky enough to get into the situation and I coped with it – it’s a real morale-booster for me, but, ja… some of the guys are chirping me about that, but I’m not letting it get to me! It’s usually when you do something like that and people react to it; it’s people acknowledging that you did something really special.
SW: How much of a factor is “playing for the jersey” in this age of professional rugby? Is it difficult to do when you switch teams?
JL: Whichever team you’re with – when you’re on the training field and you’re sweating with the okes – and you see special things from the other players in training – them really putting in the hard yards – you really develop a lot of respect for those guys and ultimately those are the guys you play for – your team mates. Having a good season or a special moment that you can bank on for the rest of your life. Maybe in professional sport it’s not so much about playing for the jersey as it used to be in the old days, but you’re still playing for the guys around you – you get to know those guys really well, especially on tour – and that’s a big thing in rugby these days.
SW: What would you say your goals are for the coming season?
JL: Firstly just getting into the Sharks Super 15 starting lineup – if you start every weekend, the possibility of getting into the Bok squad is just way better than if you’re on the bench or not playing. There’s a whole Super 15 season before the World Cup and that’s basically the last chance of getting into the World Cup for me…
SW: How do you feel about playing different positions in the back line? Do you see yourself as a flyhalf first and foremost, or are you comfortable playing elsewhere as well?
JL: It’s difficult, because there are a lot of people who are in favour of versatile players, but also a lot of people who feel there’s no place for versatile players! Sometimes I feel that I’m really just a ballplayer – I can pretty much play anywhere because I have ball skills. I am quick enough to play wing, and I can play fullback as well because I’ve got those skills. I’ve been playing flyhalf for a while, but maybe I’m just a versatile guy who can do a good job in a number of positions?
SW: What sort of things do you enjoy doing away from the rugby field?
JL: I’m a big golfer – I play off a four now. I really like my golf and there are a lot of nice courses here, which I’m looking forward to playing. I’ve also got a corporate gifts business (Magnificent Gifts) as well as a family IT business that I like to stay involved in – so pretty much just golf and business!
We’d like to thank Jacques-Louis for taking the time to chat to Sharksworld and wish him nothing but the best for a long and happy future with the Sharks.Tweet