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JP feeling the heat

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 18 Mar 2014 at 14:34
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , , ,

Sharksworld caught up with Sharks winger JP Pietersen for a quick chat in the week of what will surely be his 100th game for the team in Super Rugby, if he’s selected to play against the Bulls this weekend.

Having come from what he describes as “the coldest winter in Japan for about 40 years”, JP admits that getting used to the Durban heat again takes some doing. “When I got off the plane I was still wearing my full tracksuit and jacket and then the heat and humidity hit me!” That wasn’t the biggest challenge he had to overcome, though, asked to slot straight back into the starting team at short notice for the game against the Reds. “It was pretty difficult for me to slot straight in after only training with the team for two days,” he said. “The conditions were a bit tough and I need to get used to the slippery ball again. The players made it really easy for me to fit back in, though and I was just really determined not to let them down because they’ve been doing so well up to now.

“There’s a really positive and excited vibe that I’m getting from the guys, though and that rubs of on you very quickly. Jake [White] definitely brings something new to the team and we’re excited about that as a group. Jake’s record speaks for itself – he’s a world class coach.”

I asked JP about the flip-side of that coin – the pressure that comes with being rated as early season favourites and having a very clear team objective to win the tournament. “I think what’s important is to keep focused on what’s in front of you,” JP retorts, “it’s easy to slip up if you’re looking too far into the future and not taking things game by game. We’re just trying to learn new things and get better as a team each time we play – we’ve got lots still to work on.”

We then talked to JP about the upcoming 100-cap milestone. When asked how he felt about becoming the youngest-ever South African player to achieve that feat, the disarming JP chuckles “no, I was not aware of that one!”. Not one to navel gaze overly much when it comes to his own achievements, you can tell that he’s certainly proud of what he’s achieved so far – and prouder still that each of those caps has come for the Sharks. “Looking back over the previous 99 games, I’ve had a lot of amazing experiences and worked with a lot of really experienced people. I’m just thankful as well for [former coaches] Dick Muir, who first selected me and also John Plumtree who stood by me – they’ve made me what I am today. There’ve been some hard times as well, let me be honest, but I’m really pleased to still be here with something to offer.”

JP is quick to rank Deon Carstens as perhaps the biggest character he’s played with at the Sharks (and he’s not alone in that assessment). “As a youngster, I think Deon made it really easy for the new guys to settle in with his funny chirps, at a time when we were perhaps a little bit nervous around the senior players”. He wasn’t able to put his finger on any real favourites among the tries he’s scored (“they’ve all been special”) but when pushed, mentioned his brace against the Chiefs some years back, when “Ruan Pienaar and Frans Steyn gave me some nice cross kicks. Also there was that one against the Stormers in the semi-final that was nice”.

We finished off with a question about a more recent cross-kick, given that JP himself raised the topic. “I was talking to SP afterwards, ” he laughs, “and he told me it was all planned – he saw the opportunity out wide and he kicked it. That’s his story and he’s sticking to it!”

We’d like to thank JP and the Sharks and wish them all the best for this weekend’s game at Loftus.


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