Cell C Sharks captain Reniel Hugo has heaped praise on coach Joey Mongalo for the work he has done in starting a culture in the Carling Currie Cup team that has elevated them into Saturday’s home semifinal against the Airlink Pumas at HollywoodBets Kings Park.
The Sharks haven’t done well in the domestic competition for some while now, but before last weekend’s defeat to DHL Western Province in Cape Town, they were top of the log. They’d also won seven games on the bounce, thus building up impressive momentum that the Sharks hope to regain against the Pumas.
According to Hugo, Mongalo has a presence both on and off the field that he and the rest of the team gel with.
“Joey just joined us this season, and that was when I met him for the first time,” said the lock.
“He immediately stood out as a person. He is a really good guy both on and off the field and has really good values. He is a Christian and is a nice guy every day. He gave us a plan and he set the values for us as a team.
“He said at the start that he wanted us to play the season, every single game, as desperate men. He likened our season to a 16 round boxing fight. He said you had to do well through to round 14 in order to still be in the fight in round 15. Every game was about getting ourselves a chance to fight in round 15 and 16, and we have achieved that.
“We’ve been living the desperate men culture. We have been good to each other, obedient in terms of following the plan and the goals that have been set and we have served each other. We care for each other and want the best for each other.”
ON THE SAME PAGE
One of the keys to the Sharks’ success in the Currie Cup has been the good working relationship there is between captain and coach, which is something that Mongalo has previously commented on.
“We are both competitive people and don’t like to lose and believe if everyone does job 100 per cent then result looks after itself,” said Hugo.
“Our vision for the team is aligned. Joey gives the plan and I communicate it to the players so everyone knows how we want to play and how we can win games. He must take credit for getting the entire leadership group on the same page on how to go about winning the Currie Cup.”
While the Currie Cup is not what it used to be, with the United Rugby Championship franchises fielding development teams when that competition is being played, Hugo said it still has a lot of catch with the players. He said the Sharks’ failures in both the URC and the Heineken Champions Cup had played no role in the motivation; the Currie Cup is a stand alone competition.
“I think all of us grew up with the Currie Cup being the premier competition so it remains close to our hearts. I know that we would have like to have been better in the URC and Heineken Cup, but we treated this as a brand new competition separate from the others. We have worked really hard to get where we are so we will go all out. We want to make the final and win the trophy.”
FOLLOWING IN FATHER’S FOOTSTEPS
Hugo did that with the Cheetahs in 2016, but the Hugo extended family experienced their first Currie Cup successes when Reniel’s father, Niel, was part of the WP second row during their so-called golden era when they picked up five successive titles in a period of complete domination that started in 1982 and lasted to 1986. He also played twice for the Springboks.
“I wasn’t born yet when my dad was playing for WP, but there were lots of old jerseys and trophies in the house that made me very aware of what he achieved,” said Hugo junior, who at the age of 32 is making the most of what remains of his own playing career.
“When my parents’ friends were around they’d talk about old games or moments that they remembered. I was very young, but it rubbed off. I was brought up in a very sporting family and we closely followed what was happening in rugby and cricket, and even netball. My mom was a netball player.
“I never thought I would be able to live my dream and follow in my dad’s footsteps but it was awesome seeing all those old photos. I won the Currie Cup with the Cheetahs in 2016 but would love to add another trophy so that there can be memorabilia up on my wall at home that will inspire the next generation in the same way that I was.”