It seems Sharks prop Kees Lensing is the latest victim to be infected with ‘Watsonmania’.
Lensing shrugged off pre-season criticism of the Vodacom Western Province pack saying that entrusting Luke Watson with the captaincy has been the determining factor in the turnaround in this area of their play.
“Perhaps you would underestimate their pack if Luke wasn’t playing,” he told keo.co.za. “Not only is he a good rugby player but he is a brilliant captain.
“The guys follow his lead and are totally committed to him,” he added. “You have to remember that these are basically the same players who couldn’t perform a year ago.
“He’s made the difference,” Lensing said.
The 29-year-old highlighted Watson’s infectious positive attitude as a major contributor to the team’s improvement post Super 14 and said that his performances would set the standard for the entire team in the match in Durban on Friday night.
“If he has a good game and he is going forward with the ball and stealing our ball at the breakdown then we could be in trouble.
“The rest of his team watch him and it lifts the whole squad when he is playing well.
“And at the moment it’s the best I’ve ever seen him play,” he added.
Lensing though was not as glowing in his assessment of both his personal or his team’s form.
“No, I’m not happy with my performances in the competition so far. My whole game is poor,” he said.
“I’ve been struggling with some small injuries and illness in recent weeks and also having come straight from a full season in England I’ve really being feeling tired.
“As far as the team is concerned we know we let ourselves down on Saturday. Our work off the ball after setting up first phase possession was terrible.
“I don’t think we were mentally up for it and we’ll need to sharpen up and focus if we want to be serious contenders for the title,” he said.
Their inability to dominate at the breakdown and poor handling will be points of concern.
Wikus van Heerden won the man-of-the-match award after turning over more possession than the Sharks would want to remember, and Watson could give them a serious case of dÃ©jÃ¥ vu.
Their loss to the Lions over the weekend meant they missed the opportunity to overtake the Vodacom Blue Bulls and allowed the fifth-placed Lions to close to within five points.
And though the Durban-based side has a game in hand over both their northern rivals, consecutive losses would leave Dick Muir’s side seriously sweating their place in the top four.
Western Province need to win to stay on course for a home semi-final and with a home game against the Bulls next week, a victory at the Absa Stadium would be great for the collective psyche.
Lensing rejected the notion that the pack were too inconsistent to be considered title contenders and warned the visitors to expect a battle among the big men.
“This game will be won or lost in the forwards,” he said. “Yes our backline is dangerous, but their success will be determined by the quality of ball we provide.
“I know Luke and Robbie [Diack] will be a handful in the tight and loose but we’ll work hard to make sure they don’t dominate.
“It’s going to be a great game to watch.”
By Ryan Vrede