CAPE TOWN – Ahead of the 2018 Currie Cup season, following Western Province’s two-match pre-season tour to France, Sergeal Petersen said he felt like “part of the team for the first time”.
Up until their meetings with Narbonne and French powerhouse Montpellier, the former Cheetahs finisher hadn’t played any competitive rugby since arriving in Cape Town as a new recruit earlier this year.
A knee injury sustained in a SuperSport Challenge warm-up game in March kept him out for the greater part of his breakthrough season with the Capetonians. And after playing on tour, the former SA Schools player said it was “great to be involved”, especially seeing that he felt he hadn’t “contributed anything” to the team before they beat Narbonne and fell short against a Bok-laden Montpellier outfit.
But as soon as the Currie Cup kicked off, he did nothing but contribute...greatly.
Ironically, Petersen - who scored eight tries in Province’s six league games - didn’t visit the opposition’s in-goal area in WP’s 32-0 thumping of his former Cheetahs. But he made sure to score at least one in every one of their games that followed.
And all those electrifying moments, packaged into one brilliant season, makes his Springbok call-up well deserved.
Throughout the season, Petersen’s general contributions on attack have been a big part of Province’s miles-ahead (league) season. And possibly the only thing more impressive than his try-tally itself was the kind of five-pointers he cooked up to get over the chalk.
His inclusion in Rassie Erasmus’ group for the End of Year Tour is his reward. And the same can be said about fellow WP man, JD Schickerling.
While Petersen’s performances in the backline shouted excitement and in-your-face X-factor, Schickerling has also been impressive - albeit of course a bit more ‘quietly’ - throughout their Super Rugby and Currie Cup campaigns.
You only need to reflect on the young lock’s story, one that could be titled From Broken Neck to Bok Bolter, to understand just how impressive the 23-year-old has actually been.
If you’ve been watching him go about his business, there’s no chance his performances would be indicative of a player who, only four years ago, was two millimetres from being paralysed after suffering a dangerous tackle while playing in an Under-21 game.
Nothing about Schickerling’s performances give any indication of fear. There’s been nothing but effort.
He knows how to work a lineout. His big hits and carries speak for themselves. And all that physicality, combined with a work rate of note, make him another big prospect to have emerged from WP’s splendid second-row mill.
After being named as one of five locks for the Tests against England, France, Scotland and Wales, Schickerling could very well make his debut at Twickenham as Franco Mostert is unavailable and Lood de Jager’s match fitness is questionable.
And if he gets a chance off the bench, he just needs to do what he’s been doing all season. And Petersen? Ditto.
That should be enough.