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Ken Borland

Venter has the gas to make life difficult for high-tempo Lions 0

Posted on October 07, 2020 by Ken

The Lions are famous for the high tempo of their play, but Sharks openside flank James Venter has the gas to make their lives difficult when they restart competitive rugby in South Africa with their Super Rugby Unlocked clash at Kings Park on Durban on Friday night.

Venter, a former Lions player, said the new areas of focus in refereeing the breakdowns also favour the defender getting there first, so he is excited about the impact he could have in ensuring the Sharks have the momentum and the Lions do not. Momentum was what the Sharks most obviously lacked in their SuperFan Saturday warm-up against the Bulls, but Venter did not play in that game because he was still recovering from a concussion.

“We have a referee that’s part of our training and we’ve been working closely with him. The new interpretations really favour the fetcher staying on his feet, so it’s about setting hard and quickly. I know I have a big role to play and I’m excited about that. The forward pack as a whole has a big role to play and we need to assert ourselves early on, we know that’s our job.

“The Lions love to play, they love to play running rugby, they have a running, expansive style. But sometimes the conditions can be wet in Durban and the ball doesn’t bounce your way, and you can’t play the running game. So if we front up physically and do what we do well, then they will find it tough,” Venter said on Tuesday.

And denying the Lions that momentum up front will also make it harder for their key man, Elton Jantjies, to dominate proceedings.

“We’ve looked at the Lions depth and the games we’ve had against them recently and Elton is obviously the leader and controls their game at flyhalf. That’s where a lot of their strengths lie, so we’re going to concentrate on our efforts to try and nullify or control his abilities,” the exciting Venter, who will no doubt be at the forefront of closing down the Springbok pivot’s time and space, added.

The Sharks lost badly in that warm-up game against the Bulls, trailing 35-0 after just half-an-hour before rallying to eventually go down 49-28. Having been the form team in South African rugby before action was ended by the Covid-19 pandemic, it was embarrassing, but a valuable wake-up call before the serious games start.

“We took the Bulls warm-up in our stride and we learnt a lot. Now the camp is really excited to bounce back and the vibe is great. We learnt that rugby is an 80-minute game and if you start slowly then it’s really hard to catch up. Intensity is what we thrive on and we mustn’t lose accuracy either. In pre-season it all looked really good and we executed well, but the Bulls game was like a punch in the face,” the 24-year-old Venter said.

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