Cape Town - In
an exclusive interview, Sharks captain MARCO
WENTZEL talks about fighting back, why his Springbok Tests weren’t
memorable and the clash with the Bulls in Durban on Saturday.
Sport24 asked: The Sharks lie in fourth
place on the South African conference and ninth overall. Sum up the trials and
tribulations the team has experienced and the way forward.
Marco Wentzel: It has been a very
difficult Super Rugby season for us so far and we could easily rattle off a whole
list of excuses, from Gary Gold coming in late, to players getting injured and
suspended. We could have turned on each other quite
quickly, because it does happen to some teams, but the fact that we have
remained united shows that we are a tight-knit group. I believe all of the (aforementioned)
circumstances combined to create the perfect storm we are in, but we are
fighting back and as the season progresses, I believe we will better understand
what the coaching staff wants from us as players. You can definitely see that
Gary and Brendan Venter have worked together before because they are unified in
their game approach and their philosophies are very similar. Gary is a
level-headed guy; he understands people and is probably one of the best
man-managers I have worked with.
Sport24 asked: What has proved the
primary theme of your training sessions this week?
Marco Wentzel: Definitely our defence.
During the pre-season, we put a lot of time into our attack because we wanted
to score more tries. As such, our focus was more attacking-wise and so as a
defensive unit we only worked together for a limited amount of time. As a unit,
our defensive roles weren’t that specific and within in that unit, individuals
worked themselves out of position. Going forward, we will operate within the
Sport24 asked: You have been handed
the captaincy role. What qualities define a leader?
Marco Wentzel: Being an effective captain
takes a bit of experience. While leadership is something that comes naturally
to me, as I have captained since schoolboy level, I definitely made mistakes
when I was younger. However, when you’ve captained over a number of years, I
believe you develop the ability to lead a group. While it can be quite a fine
line to tread, as a captain you must remember to be with your teammates rather
than above them.
Sport24 asked: You played in Europe
for a decade. What was that experience like for you?
Marco Wentzel: I enjoyed an amazing
career in Europe for which I’m very blessed. I was in Italy for a few years
before moving to England. In my first year at Leicester, we had a very strong
Heineken Cup team, and playing in that competition was an amazing experience.
The Heineken Cup is structured in the same way as a World Cup in that there are
pool stages followed by the knockout phase of the competition. While John Smit
has said that it would be harder to win a Super Rugby title than a Heineken Cup
final, I wouldn’t be able to compare the two. It would, however, be very
interesting if that match were to take place.
Sport24 asked: Pieter-Steph du Toit
is tipped to play many Tests for South Africa. Why?
Marco Wentzel: Pieter-Steph is an
amazing athlete. He is so dynamic, powerful and possesses an excellent work
rate and engine on him. His lineout calling has also improved. It’s such a pity
he suffered an injury, but hopefully it’s not as serious as first thought. He’s
headstrong, and provided he stays fit, he is destined to play many times for
Sport24 asked: You played two Test
matches for South Africa in 2002. Your memories?
Marco Wentzel: I wouldn’t say that my
Tests for South Africa are among my fondest memories. In fact, it was one of,
if not, the hardest time of my career. That end-of-year tour probably did more
damage to my rugby career than anything else. As a kid you aspire to play for
the Springboks, but that tour wasn’t a fun one to be a part of, and back then,
as a 21-year-old, it wasn’t at all what I expected. The team at the time was
not a cohesive unit.
Sport24 asked: There is often talk of
derby matches in South Africa proving more physical than those in Australia and
New Zealand. From observation, what’s your assessment?
Marco Wentzel: It’s definitely more
physical playing against South African teams. In the days when I played Super
12, even then it was more attritional. I think it’s because we enjoy smashing
each other and perhaps bragging rights take on a greater significance in South
Africa. I read that forwards are involved in around 300 impacts per match,
which explains why I feel the way that I do at the age of 35, having played the
game for 18 years. But the reality is that rugby is a physical game and that’s
why we play it and why people watch it.
Sport4 asked: Share some secrets about your team-mates… Who is the worst golfer, the
naughtiest and the most forgetful? And who has the best and worst pick-up
Marco Wentzel: The worst golfer is
definitely Andre Esterhuizen – he should play of a 25. He is a big lad, so he
hits it far but seldom in the right direction. As far as the naughtiest, it
would be a tie between Dale Chadwick and Kyle Cooper. The two of them together
is chaos. Renaldo Bothma is the most forgetful. While he switches on when he
takes to the field, he switches off when he’s away from the four lines. I would
also have to throw Renaldo in there as far as the player with the worst pick-up
lines. Meanwhile, Stephan Lewies has the best one-liners. He’s a hit with the
ladies owing to his good looks and Justin Bieber hairstyle.
Sport24 asked: The Sharks entertain
an in-form Bulls side on Saturday. Offer your outlook.
Marco Wentzel: I believe you know
exactly what you are going to get against the Bulls. They are a physical side.
They are going to drive you, look to play in the right areas and come around
the corners. It was a pity about not clinching the game in the end against the
Lions, and in terms of the conference, this match is in effect a must-win for
us. The Bulls are SA conference leaders, so we expect a massive battle and
keenly await the challenge.
Roger De Sa
Hennie le Roux
Peter de Villiers
Braam van Straaten
Carel du Plessis
Joe van Niekerk