James Venter enjoys being back home and swimming with the Sharks
DURBAN – Super Rugby this year has been a happy homecoming for James Venter, the Sharks flank who was under-utilised at the Lions but is now prospering back in his home-town.
Venter was signed by the Lions after finishing school in Durban but was lured back to KZN by Sharks coach Sean Everitt, and the 23-year-old has hit the ground running with excellent performances in the Sharks’ victories over the Bulls and Highlanders.
It was Venter’s try on the half an hour mark against the Highlanders last week that broke the deadlock between the teams and sparked a spree of points for his team.
Venter made the most of a turnover and after taking a pass from Sikhumbuzo Notse he hurtled 40m to the tryline.
“I saw the defence opening up for me and I thought: 'drop the clutch and make this work,'“ he said enthusiastically from the Sharks’ base in Wellington where they play the Hurricanes on Saturday.
“I was thankful for the extremely gruelling pre-season fitness work we did the speed and stamina were there. If you have worked hard enough, those opportunities will present themselves and you can make the most of them.”
The Sharks scored five fine tries to beat the Highlanders and Venter says they are hoping for more of the same against the Hurricanes given that conditions are again expected to be dry and conducive to attacking rugby.
“The conditions in Dunedin were perfect for playing attractive rugby. It was nice and dry and that is ideal for our game - we have a lot of speed in the backline,” he said. “Training and playing in the humidity of Durban at this time of year means a wet ball, which is testing, so getting a dry day meant the offloads stuck and we could move the ball.
“Being able to play like that against the Highlanders has helped us build confidence ahead of the Hurricanes,” he added.
“They are a physical bunch of guys, they are going to niggle a bit off the ball as we saw when they played the Stormers, but that is what rugby is about. It is a physical battle and our forwards have a big job to do to create a platform so our backs can finish off.”
At 1.82m and 92kg, Venter has the compact build suited for a breakaway flank. He is a similar type of player to the brilliant Heinrich Brussouw, the Springbok that in 2009 excelled against the British and Irish Lions under coach Pieter de Villiers only to find his style of loose forward play go out of fashion with subsequent coaches.
Everitt, though, is a strong believer in fielding an out-and-out fetcher.
“The coach wants me to hit breakdowns hard, looking for the turnovers,” Venter says. “That physical approach to the breakdowns moulds the openside position, so being able to go out and play my natural game complements what Sean wants and makes my game very enjoyable.”