DURBAN – Sharks supporters have been on a roller coaster ride this season with their team inevitably following up a good performance with a flat one, but new captain Philip van der Walt reckons the Kings Park faithful will be in for a treat when the Force visit on Saturday.
“You can rest assured that consistency in performance will be the watchword all week,” the 27-year-old flank said with a wry grin. “Nobody wants us to build momentum more than the players themselves. There will be no slacking off.”
The articulate Van der Walt has a B Com degree in Human Resource Management and a post graduate diploma in teaching, and it is not rocket science for him as to how the Sharks transformed themselves from rabble against the Rebels to confident winners over the Jaguares.
“No, we did not take any magic potion,” he laughed. “It was simply about working hard for each other and playing with intensity and enthusiasm. It was not a case of us having a bad attitude in the game against the Rebels but rather a situation where we did not cope with disruptions like the red card (to Andre Esterhuizen), and we went into our shells. We did not adapt well and learned a lot out of that game.”
“When we got onto the plane to go to South America, the attitude was excellent. There was not really a great deal to say,” Van der Walt continued. “Everybody knew that we had let a lot of people down and that we had to fix it. We felt we owed our supporters a win.”
The Sharks host the Force, a tricky team that have given some of the best sides a good run for their money. They are way better than the Rebels.
“We know that and the focus this week is on replicating the intensity with which we played in Buenos Aires,” Van der Walt said.
“Over the last few weeks, the tournament has thrown up some surprise results. You just can’t lose focus in this competition. We have the Force, Kings and Sunwolves coming up and all those teams are capable of beating us if we are not properly focused.”
Van der Walt is from the small town of Adelaide in the Eastern Cape and studied at the University of the Free State. He was a Cheetah for a few seasons before playing for Biarritz in France where he had a captaincy role.
Last week, it came as something of a surprise when Van der Walt was named captain at the expense of Tera Mtembu, whom he also replaced in the starting line-up.
“I like the responsibility of making decisions but I don’t let the title go to my head,” he said. “The big thing about the trip to Argentina was that everybody was up for it, and everybody led in their own positions, and that is what we needed. It was easy to captain such a motivated side. Once a decision was made, everybody just backed it and got stuck in and made it happen.”
Van der Walt said he expected the same on Saturday.
“We truly owe our home fans a big one,” he said. “They are due some consistency from us. We want to pick up where we left off. We don’t want to get into a situation (against the Force) where we are under pressure to create something out of nothing. If we just carry on working hard the performance will happen automatically.”