Cheetahs loose forward Junior Pokomela says the Bloemfontein-based team is aiming for more success on tour following their first Pro14 away win last weekend.
The Cheetahs made history during Round Seven last Saturday as they become the first South African team to record an away win in the Pro14. Their 24-23 win over Italian club Zebre was their first victory abroad on their third attempt, having lost to Ulster (42-19) and Munster (51-18) during the opening rounds.
Chatting to MyPlayers from the team base in Ireland, where the team prepares for their match against Connacht this weekend, Cheetahs loose forward Junior Pokomela said the players are in good spirits.
“Winning our first away game definitely brought about an uplifting mood within the team. The players’ confidence and belief was boosted after that result. We find ourselves in a positive environment as we prepare for our next game,” Pokomela told MyPlayers.
“The Pro14 has been a big adjustment for all of us. Personally, I’m still getting used to the immense physicality! That’s something I’m noticing during my recovery sessions. The European teams put a lot of emphasis on their forward play, so I’m learning to adapt. I’ll definitely be putting more work in between training sessions!”
Nearing the halfway stage of the Pro14 league phase, the Cheetahs are currently third in Conference A, which would see them qualify for a play-off place.
Pokomela said the Cheetahs players and management making the necessary adjustments to life in a new competition as they’re learning many new lessons, especially on the road in Europe.
“At this stage, I think we have done very well so far and we are just beginning to make our mark in the competition. As a squad, we are aiming to make the most of every opportunity that lies ahead,” said Pokomela.
“The structure of the matches and the travel between South Africa and Europe has been well-organised. Adapting to the different weather conditions in different regions can be challenging, but it’s something we’re getting used to. We are focused on putting in all our energies to ensure we perform to our potential on every match day.”
Off the field, Pokomela is also putting in the work. The former Junior Springbok is determined to get an accounting qualification during his rugby career.
“I’ve always found it important to ensure that I maintain my studies after matric. I’m currently enrolled at Unisa for an Accounting Science diploma and I’m determined to finish it. My rugby schedule does make it tough, but I’m willing to put in the sacrifice… even if it takes me 10 years!” explained Pokomela.
“Otherwise, I really enjoy spending time with the friends I’ve made in Bloemfontein. They’ve made my move from Port Elizabeth to the Free State much easier.”
By Gareth Duncan