‘Jackpot’ hails Aussie experience

New Sharks recruit Jacques Potgieter says his time spent playing for the Waratahs helped improve his game immeasurably.

After a highly impressive two-year stint in Sydney, which saw Potgieter play an instrumental role in the Waratahs’ Super Rugby title-winning campaign in 2014, the dynamic forward has returned to the Sharks a far more well-rounded player.

Potgieter played his junior rugby in Durban, but really made a name for himself when plying his trade for the Bulls, while he would go on to earn three Test caps in 2012. Although Potgieter’s international career didn’t quite take off at the time, his subsequent spell in Australia undoubtedly served to improve his skills and versatility.

‘The last two years in Australia helped my game so much,’ he told the Daily News. ‘Playing under [coach] Michael Cheika, he is one of the best coaches in the world, he changed my mindset and my approach to the game. Where South Africans usually try and run into people, and over people, [the fact is] everyone is big and strong now. So you can’t just do that anymore, you have to be a bit smarter.’

Potgieter, who was given the nickname 'Jackpot' by his Australian teammates, was deployed at both lock and in the loose trio while at the Waratahs. There was so much he had learned about his game under the tutelage of Cheika, who is now coach of the Wallabies, he said.

‘The ball skills that he taught me, [and also in terms of] better handling and making better decisions on the field – rather run into space than run into the guy to keep the ball alive. It changed my game a lot, it was a different approach to the game, [it was about] rather trying to outsmart a guy than to outmuscle him. That is where world rugby is also heading… Cheika’s big thing was to have controlled aggression, he would tell us to never lose our wildness, we had licence to go out and play, but we also had to be a bit smart.’

After arriving in Durban after a stint in Japan, Potgieter’s senior Sharks debut is unfortunately set to be delayed after he picked up an ankle injury that will sideline him for at least six weeks but, it’s clear that he’s desperate for the opportunity to contribute to the Sharks' campaign.

‘Coming back to the Sharks, I feel like I have unfinished business. I played all my junior rugby here, except Super Rugby. I always said I would finish at the Sharks; not that I am close to finishing. I want to give myself a full go to play for the Springboks again… I think it [the Sharks] is a great place to be at the moment, I wouldn’t have picked any other team to be at at the moment, I really mean it, because no one is giving us a chance but that is bringing us closer together and making us believe in each other.’

Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

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