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Cool, calm and collected – Sharksworld chats to Marco Wentzel

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks on 1 Aug 2013 at 09:08
Tagged with : , , , , , , ,

In chatting to new Sharks line-out lock Marco Wentzel, one thing comes across very clearly; this is a man who’s been through rugby’s wringer plenty of times before and in addition to the scars to prove it, has picked up a fair bit of knowledge along the way.

Wentzel first rose to prominence when picked for the Boks as a raw youngster back in 2002 and was one of several players whose confidence – and reputation – took a knock after a disastrous tour that saw the side well beaten by both France and Scotland. To his credit, though, he’s risen above all that and carved out a long and successful career to date, one which has taken him from Italy to the UK and now finally to Durban. Learning to roll with the punches and shrug off unwarranted criticism has come with the territory.

“That’s the great thing about rugby in South Africa,” he says, “the fans are so passionate and have such high expectations; they just want you to win. You need to accept that everyone is going to have an opinion, but as you get older, you get to know yourself better. You know who you are and who you play for – yourself, your family, your team mates – and the other stuff doesn’t matter as much.”

Since leaving South Africa as a callow youth some nine years ago, Wentzel has established himself as a key man at several clubs, with the most recent ones, Leeds and Wasps, opting to build on his specialist line-out skills and use him in an auxiliary coaching role. This is something that the Sharks are keen for him to continue with in Durban. “Look, when I was a young lock, I didn’t have anyone to show me the ropes, to teach me the short cuts. We’ve got some great young players here and a big part of my role is to help them develop more. People often don’t realise how much work has to go into line-outs – how much time has to be spent off the field in getting it right – and I hope that I can impart come of that work ethic to the younger guys here and to show them what’s required.”

Still in great shape despite his relatively “advanced years”, he’s keen to emphasise that an on-field role is very much the main part of his job description, though. “Brendan [Venter] believes in a squad system and in rotation. That’s what has worked for him at Saracens and he knows that it’s what is needed to keep the guys in peak condition. “ That, in other words, translates to an even distribution of game time across the squad, with Marco no doubt lined up to wear that all-important number 5 jersey for the Sharks in rotation with the likes of Peet Marais and Pieter-Steph du Toit, once the latter returns from injury.

“I’ve been blessed to have a long career,” he tells me, “but don’t think that means I’ve come here to retire! I have goals over the next two years, to establish myself as an important part of this squad and to show what I can do. It doesn’t matter what I did as a Bok back in 2002; it also doesn’t matter how well I may have played in the UK. All that matters – all I’m focused on – is proving myself all over again here in Durban.

“This is one of the best teams in the world and Durban is an absolutely amazing place to play rugby – an amazing part of our country. When I spoke to John [Smit] and to Brendan about their plans for the team and what they wanted to achieve here, I really wanted to be a part of it. I’m just so privileged to have the opportunity to be here and to be a part of something so special.”
Welcome to Durban, Marco – and thanks for the chat! May your stay be a long and successful one.


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