Lock Ruan Botha says there’s an exciting environment on and off the field at the Sharks.
The former Junior Springbok has grown from strength to strength during the 2017 season, which has been a big personal boost of confidence for a player who struggled with injury last year.
He showed great form during the past Super Rugby campaign, which was rewarded with a SA ‘A’ call-up during the June internationals against the French Barbarians.
He’s currently established a starting place in the Sharks second row during the Currie Cup and his form has motivated head coach Rob du Preez to name him captain in the domestic competition.
The 25-year-old credits the positive environment at the Sharks for his growth this year, which bodes well for the Durban-based union’s future.
“When Gary Teichmann arrived, he emphasised that he wanted to create a family culture at the Sharks. And under head coach Rob du Preez, that’s definitely happening among the players and staff,” Botha told MyPlayers. “There’s an enjoyable and exciting environment and there’s definitely a new culture developing, which is motivating the players.
“We have a good blend of experienced players and talented young guys coming through. We still need a bit of time to understand each other better on the field, but so far, things are going very well. And it will only get better from here.”
The Sharks are currently enjoying a five-match winning streak in the Currie Cup after beating Western Province 21-20 at Newlands last weekend. Botha said he enjoyed playing against his old team – he spent three seasons in Cape Town between 2013 and 2015.
“It was great being back at Newlands and playing against some old team-mates. Western Province did enough to beat us by a close margin last year, so getting the win with a late try was good result for the team on Saturday,” said Botha.
“There’s a lot of confidence among the players, but we have to remain focused. It’s always great when you’re playing winning rugby, but there’s so much more we need to do to ensure we put ourselves in a good position to secure home-ground advantage for the play-offs.”
Personally, Botha is hoping to continue his growth as a player at the Sharks and hopes to achieve national honours in the near future.
“Being named captain of the team during the Currie Cup did come as a surprise, but we have a great leadership core at the Sharks, which includes players like Keegan Daniel, Odwa Ndungane and Franco Marais. We all play our individual roles quite well. The captaincy has definitely motivated me to lift my game,” said Botha.
“I’m very happy with my form this season, especially after the difficulties with injury in the past. Every player will tell you that the recovery period is never easy. I want to prove myself during the Currie Cup this season and hope to do enough to catch the attention of the Springbok selectors. It will be a dream come true to play for the Springboks.”
Meanwhile, the Cheetahs and Southern Kings will create history this weekend as they will become the first two South African teams to compete in a European competition when they play in the Pro14 this weekend.
Botha believes the entire South African rugby fraternity will be watching.
“It’s definitely an exciting weekend for South African rugby and the players will definitely be keeping an eye on events. I wish the Cheetahs and Southern Kings well ahead of their new adventure,” said Botha.
By Gareth Duncan