‘Eskom’ can turn off the Cheetahs’ lights in Bloemfontein
CAPE TOWN - Although Marco van Staden is a classic fetcher flank, he stood out as a ball-carrier in last weekend’s 30-23 win over Griquas in Pretoria.
But for Friday’s Super Rugby Unlocked showdown against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, Van Staden’s core skills will be more valuable to Jake White’s side.
The 25-year-old was a commanding presence with ball-in-hand at Loftus Versfeld last Saturday, in somewhat unfamiliar fashion. At 1.84m and 106kg, a reputation as a hard nut on defence and with a nickname like ‘Eskom’ - because he tackles the lights out of you - Van Staden is regarded as a terrier on the ground, with little finesse on attack.
But the three-cap Springbok took the fight to Griquas by forcing his way over the advantage line - perhaps with a view to proving to Springbok bosses Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber that he has more strings to his bow.
Van Staden was one of the unlucky players to miss out on 2019 World Cup selection. “Ja, I always enjoy carrying the ball, but the main focus for a six is to clean the ruck first and get to the ball. So, I was just in the right spots to carry the ball a bit more in that game. But ja, I always enjoyed carrying the ball, and working on all parts of my game,” the former Tuks stalwart said this week.
“It (not playing in the World Cup) was obviously a big disappointment, but I believe that everything happens for a reason, and God has His right time for everyone. So, I had to believe that it happened for a reason, and if it wasn’t my time, then it wasn’t my time.”
The fact that he now has serious competition for a starting berth at the Bulls will also improve his game. White has the luxury of calling on Duane Vermeulen, Arno Botha, Nizaam Carr, Tim Agaba and youngster Elrigh Louw, and many of those loose forwards are able to attack the breakdown.
Vermeulen and Carr were unavailable for the Griquas game due to minor leg knocks, but White will hope to involve them in some capacity against the Cheetahs, who will look to continue their attacking onslaught from the Pumas encounter - which is where Van Staden can make all the difference.
“Good competition is always welcome. It brings the best out of the players, and it’s also good that we can learn from each other,” he said. “We think that the Cheetahs are definitely going to come with their expansive game, playing wide-wide, and making us work.
“Our focus is about how we are going to stop that, because they want quick ball, so we have to slow their ball down - break their rhythm a bit. We have a plan for that.
“The refs are rewarding turnovers quite quickly - because if you can get both hands underneath the ball in a picking-up motion, you get rewarded quite quickly.
“I think it’s good, because there is no more from-the-side cleaning and tacklers not rolling away. It definitely helps the defensive breakdown.”
Both teams will be announced today.