Sharks star Phepsi Buthelezi says it is fantastic to play among some of the country’s best loose forwards in the Vodacom Super Rugby Unlocked competition.
The Sharks are currently in third position on the log, behind the Bulls and Stormers. On Friday, they travel to Kimberley to face Griquas for a crucial match that could potentially have them make up lost ground on the Bulls.
To date, they’ve won three of their four games, but the team’s back row in particular have come under scrutiny in recent weeks.
Speaking at a virtual media briefing on Tuesday, Buthelezi admitted that the make-up of the Sharks’ loose-forward stocks are unconventional, but that their dynamism is unrivalled.
‘The Sharks are blessed with loose forwards,’ he said. ‘We’ve got probably some of the best loose forwards in the country. Obviously, most of us are not as big as the loose forwards in other teams, but I think we’re generally guys that like to play with ball in hand. We’re fast, evasive and we’ve also got guys that are very good on the ground, which certainly helps our gameplan,’ he explained.
Buthelezi added that his primary role for now is being the link between forwards and backs, but says he is still developing as a player and can hopefully add more to his arsenal.
‘My role within the back row and the team in general, is trying to be the link between forwards and backs. Playing alongside and learning from players like Sikhumbuzo Notshe and Henco Venter, exeprienced guys that have been around and have done their time, especially as a young player coming in, is massive for me. I mean, we all know how good Notshe has been this year and to learn from a guy like that is such a massive opportunity for me.’
So far this year, in both the suspended Vodacom Super Rugby campaign as well as the domestic Unlocked version, Buthelezi has been used as an eighthman and a blindside flank, and while he is adamant he is more than happy to play wherever is needed, the 21-year-old does identify his preferred position.
‘Getting chance at No 7 earlier this season was good for me to just see and experience the game from a different perspective. For a South African No 7, we know you have to be tall, you have to be big, you need to be physical, you’re basically the main ball-carrier. Defensively as well your role changes quite a bit, you’re not always going around the corner or mostly keeping the width down the blind.
‘It was those kinds of things that were minor adjustments. And I am able to make those adjustments, but the reason I prefer No 8 going forward is because I’m more comfortable and better with the role of being the link between forwards and backs. At No 8, I’m able to generally play in the wider channels and I feel like that’s where my strengths are. I definitely don’t mind playing seven but going forward, looking at playing for the Boks, No 8 for me as a player would probably be the better position.’
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