Swanepoel: 'It's about attitude'

FNB Varsity Cup

Shimlas coach Jaco Swanepoel highlighted the improved intensity from his team in the last twenty minutes as the crucial factor in their 37-28 come-from-behind victory over NWU-Pukke on Monday night.

Swanepoel believes that chasing the game, rather than defending a lead in the final stages of the match, benefited his side who are now serious semifinal contenders in the 2011 Varsity Cup.

He told varsitycup.co.za on Tuesday morning: "I think it was just a mindset, last night we had to play to win the game. In the previous games we were ahead and we sat on the back foot and decided to defend our lead.

"We had to really pull some punches in the last twenty to make sure we won the game," he said.

This was in no small part due to a resurgent FNB Pukke team who have looked dangerous under the guidance of caretaker coach Hannes Esterhuizen.

The Men from Potchefstroom were highly competitive and, when they scored their fourth try early in the second half, many believed they were on course for their first win of the season.

Swanepoel was impressed by the efforts of the Pukke team, who would have been heartbroken to lose a game that they had controlled for long periods.

He commented: "Pukke were very much improved, I think that Hannes is doing an exceptional job there like he did with the Leopards Under-21 side."

FNB Shimlas are well placed to make a run at a spot in the semifinals as they take on NMMU and TUT - two of the historically weaker teams in the competition - in the next two weeks.

However, the Shimlas boss refuses to take anything for granted and warned that his team would not underestimate anyone at this vital stage of this tough competition.

He noted: "It's one thing to believe that somebody is a weaker team but I think that is the big mistake that Tuks made against TUT and obviously that is where you get the bloody nose from.

"If you believe that there are weak sides in the Varsity Cup this season, you are going to come second. So obviously we will take it as a normal game because I don't believe that they are weak sides," he added.

Although they will respect the ability of their opposition, Shimlas will be going all out in the next two weeks to ensure they get as many log points as possible ahead of the knock-out phase of the competition.

"We are going to try our best because at this stage if you score your four tries you are in with a shot of winning the game," explained the Shimlas mentor.

"There have been some big scores recently so you will have to sharpen up on your defence and your attacking ability because that is going to make a big difference at the end - a bonus point is worth a lot at this late stage of the competition," he said.

Shimlas impressed earlier in the season with victories over powerhouses Maties and Tuks, and although the results helped his team's confidence Swanepoel does not believe that it will give his side the edge over those teams if they are to meet later in the season.

He continued: "Obviously it's a confidence booster but you have to take it game-by-game. You can't say that because you won the previous time that you are going to win again.

"Lots of things change, like injuries and team selections. All of that has a big impact on semifinals because it is such an intense competition - it runs for seven weeks and in the eighth week you are playing semifinals without a break."

Whatever happens in the next two weeks, Swanepoel remains positive that Shimlas will be there at the business-end of the competition.

"We are in with a shot and I am glad that we gave ourselves a shot at the semifinal because anybody can beat anybody else in a semifinal, although the teams with home semis probably have the advantage, but nobody knows - the ball is not round so anything can happen in a rugby game," he said.

By Michael de Vries