JP to celebrate 100 in style
Johannesburg - By his own admission he was a little rusty in his comeback game, but JP Pietersen is confident he can meet his quest for a far more assured performance when the Cell C Sharks visit Loftus on Saturday to play a crucial Vodacom Super Rugby derby against the Vodacom Bulls.
According to the supersport.com website, a victory at the home of the team that at this stage looks the Sharks’ likely biggest rivals in the battle for South African conference honours will confirm the Sharks’ domination of the race for local bragging rights and also cement their place at the top of the overall log. Pietersen will have double reason to want to do well though, for it will be his landmark 100th Super Rugby game in the black jersey.
“I trained for my return to Super Rugby when I was in Japan, and when I was in Durban over Christmas I chatted to Jake (White) and discussed with him the plans going forward. I knew what shape I had to be in.
“I think I was a bit rusty in my first game back, but it was just really nice to be in the Sharks team after six months away. It’s good to join a Sharks team that is winning and playing good rugby. I watched them from Japan and they’re looking really good. It wasn’t easy coming in, because there have been quite a few changes, but I just wanted to learn as quickly as I could.”
For someone who hadn’t played for the Sharks for a while Pietersen didn’t do badly against the Reds last week, when he was effectively forced to start because of the absence of Odwa Ndungane through family bereavement plus the injury that forced out centre Paul Jordaan. He was certainly less rusty than when he had to make another hasty entrance into a starting team at a different level to what he would have been used to in Japan.
And it should be a source of confidence to the Sharks players that after the game in question – the test match between the Springboks and Wales in Cardiff last November – Pietersen quickly regained his finest form in the following matches against Scotland and France. That should be seen as a warning to the Bulls ahead of a game that Pietersen says he is looking forward to excelling in.
Pietersen says he owes a debt to the Sharks, and his 100th game will be about repaying some of that depth.
“It’s a special honour for any player to play in their 100th game. The Sharks gave me the opportunity, so I’ve wanted to be loyal to them, and they’ve been loyal to me. I’ve had wonderful memories here that I will cherish forever, and it is really special to play 100 games for one union.”
Pietersen first played for the Sharks under the coaching of Dick Muir and made his Springbok debut in 2006 – as a fullback against Australia. He has played most of his subsequent games at national level on the wing, but he has played several games for the Sharks at centre. Later this week, when the Sharks team is announced, we will know whether he will be playing his 100th in his more accustomed position, or whether it may be in the No 13 jersey.
Although S’bura Sithole did well against the Reds at outside centre, Pietersen could be in line for a switch inside if Ndungane is ready to return to top rugby.