PORT ELIZABETH – Springbok No 8 Uzair Cassiem says he really wants to “stake a claim” in a position that has a lot of “quality competition”.
Cassiem will start at the back of the scrum in the absence of skipper Warren Whiteley in today’s Rugby Championship match against Argentina in Port Elizabeth, and now the Cheetahs loose forward is well aware he’s going to have to give it his all if he wants to tighten his grip on the No 8 jersey.
“No 8 is a position I want to grow in. And I’ll play to the best of my abilities. If you put on the Bok jersey you have to give 150 percent every week, that’s what we expect from you,”
“You represent 65 million-plus people, and I know the quality of competition in the position, so I really want to stake a claim.”
With the impact Whiteley has made in the Bok set-up - not only in terms of his leadership but his playing ability as well – it’s only natural that Cassiem, as Whiteley’s stand-in, will have to be expect being compared to the Lions captain a lot.
But it doesn’t seem to bother Cassiem – who just wants to execute what he’s worked on over the past couple of weeks at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
“I think we are similar players and I think we’ve both got a natural ability to compete at No 8.
“The coach picked me to do a job and hopefully I just execute that.”
“We’ve got Siya (Kolisi) at 6, who’s a big ball-carrier and who plays to the ball, then we’ve got Jaco (Kriel) at 7, who’s a good ball-carrier as well and he also plays to the ball, and I’m competing at the lineouts.”
The Strand-born 27-year-old also expressed confidence in what the team have achieved in their period in PE, and added that the bond between the players has also helped him to settle into the Bok camp.
“There’s a big camaraderie among the guys and I’ve settled in nicely. We’ve had two big weeks with a lot of hard work, so we just need to execute it on Saturday.
“The guys are excited. We’re well prepared and we’ve put in the hard work - the plans are in place and the structures are in place. So we’re looking forward to it.”