Cape Town - In an exclusive interview, Western
Province’s Argentinian lock MANUEL CARIZZA talks about adjusting to life and rugby in South
Africa, the Rugby Championship and winning his place back in the Pumas side.
Sport24 asked: Since signing for the Stormers/WP, what
have you most enjoyed about your South African adventure?
Manuel Carizza: It’s been
a great opportunity for me to experience another type of rugby and a new
culture in as beautiful a city as Cape Town. I’m staying with my girlfriend in
Green Point. I spent a lot of time playing in Europe (for Biarritz and Racing
Metro) and I believe that being exposed to a different way of playing rugby
will only improve me as a player. I’ve found the pace of the game in the
southern hemisphere to be much quicker. In the north, the game is slower and
Sport24 asked: The Pumas find themselves in third on
the Rugby Championship log with two points. Have you been impressed by
their performances in the competition thus far?
Manuel Carizza: Yes. Los
Pumas have played very well in their first two matches, and I feel that they
were very unfortunate to lose against the Springboks in Salta having lead by 12
points at one stage. Being ahead on the scoreboard against the world’s top
sides and then losing the game in the end, for me, comes down to experience and
game management. I believe the team would have learned a lesson in Salta and
will come back stronger. While Argentina’s all-round play has improved, I’ve
been really impressed with their set-piece dominance.
Sport24 asked: Tell us about Argentina’s famed Bajada
technique at scrum time and why you believe an experienced Springbok pack
struggled to live with their hosts at the set-phase?
Manuel Carizza: The
literal translation of Bajada from Spanish to English means “to go low.” I
believe that the relatively new scrum laws favour this particular technique,
because after the hit there is a moment to get the scrum stable and then the
Pumas pack push together and with pressure. In my opinion, scrummaging as a
collective eight-man unit improves the timing and force of the impact.
Sport24 asked: You last played for the Pumas in June this
year. What have you made of the changes in coach and philosophy and what will
it take to reclaim your place in the national team?
Manuel Carizza: Daniel
Hourcade has come in with a new style and his own set of beliefs. I believe his
training methods and emphasis on a high-tempo game is most similar to the
Australian style of play. From what I hear, Hourcade most admires Michael
Cheika’s philosophy to the game. This is a big change for us Argentine players,
as we are more used to a slower tempo with an emphasis on strong set-piece
play, tactical kicking and defence. While it may take some time to adjust, in
today’s game you cannot content yourself with the above elements alone as the
modern game dictates that you get the ball and score tries. As far as my own
place in the team goes, while I have not spoken to the coach, I would like to
do so soon to know where I stand. Obviously it will be nice to return to the
national team but, for now, my main focus is on playing well for Western
Province in the Currie Cup.
Sport24 asked: You made your Test debut against South
Africa in 2004. What are your memories from that match and in which areas has
Argentinian rugby most developed in the past decade?
Manuel Carizza: I remember
being very nervous before winning my first cap for my country. As a
19-year-old, it was a huge step up having previously only played amateur and
age-grade rugby. I can recall it was a very tough game played in the Buenos
Aires heat. On the day, we came up against a very strong South African pack and
while we lost the game 7-39, my 25 minutes of game time were a personal
milestone. In the decade since, I would say the Pumas’ tactical discipline has
most improved. Being disciplined is not only about conceding fewer penalties;
it also comes down to a team’s professionalism.
Sport24 asked: You are renowned as one of the hard men
of rugby. Do you relish the physical nature of the oval game?
Manuel Carizza: Yes, I do but
funnily enough it wasn’t like that all when I was young. I used to enjoy touching
the ball and running with the backs, as I was pretty fast. But as time went on,
I reached my speed limit and have now completely assumed that physical role.
You won’t find me in the backline nowadays, as I like to carry the ball up,
makes my tackles, clean rucks and do my job in the line-out. A lot of people
remember my tackle on Richie McCaw in the 2013 Rugby Championship…. He chose to
attack my channel and I hit him hard but fair.
Sport24 asked: Who’s the toughest opponent you have
faced as a team and as an individual?
Manuel Carizza: As a team,
I must say the All Blacks, because you never know what to expect from them. The
New Zealanders possess the ability to punish the smallest of mistakes and
against them you cannot relax for a second. My toughest opponent was Sebastien
Chabal. He was the player who tackled me the most and the hardest.
Sport24 asked: And finally, at Western Province tell
us which of your teammates is the funniest, the best dressed, the worst singer and
the most likely winner of Master Chef South Africa.
Manuel Carizza: Pat
Cilliers would be the funniest. I really enjoy his sense of humour, because he
is funny without even knowing it. I would give the best dressed award to Siya
Kolisi. Siya would probably kill me if I say he’s also the worst singer, so I
would nominate myself. Pat Cilliers would be the best chef in the team, he
makes really good ribs.
Carel du Plessis
Joe van Niekerk