The rise of Bradley Barritt

After becoming a sudden fixture in the Sharks side last season in his debut year, centre Bard Barritt has formed a formidable midfield combination with Butch James and Waylon Murray either side of him.

And on the eve of the biggest game of his life – Saturday’s semi-final against the Blues – and with Springbok selection around the corner, Barritt can only be revelling in the opportunity which he has earned for himself.

Speaking to this website, Barritt said he expected the visiting Blues side to come out firing on Saturday.

“They would be hurt after their loss to us.

“And that is going to be their motivation. They want to come out of their slump against the South African sides.

“As for our preparations, tactically we are still preparing for how we are going to defend and attack, but we are also trying to keep our preparations as normal as possible – we don’t want to get caught up in the semi-final hype.

“We are trying to approach it as a normal game. There are no bonus points so it is probably going to be quite tight.”

He also added that the loss of Luke McAlister to injury and Ali Williams to ill-discipline shouldn’t affect the Blues.

“Nothing should change. They have the depth to replace those players.”

After a raw but wildly successful breakthrough season, Barritt’s game has shown a marked improvement. In the professional era, he is also in the minority as a player who looks as though he is just playing out of a genuine sense of enjoyment of the game.

Both his grandfather and father played provincial rugby, and Barritt has been playing age-group rugby for his province all his life, starting out as a hooker and making the swop to inside centre at the age of sixteen.

He has also played alongside fellow centre Waylon Murray pretty much every step of the way, as both consistently made the same representative teams in Kwa-Zulu Natal every year.

This gives their on-field combination a distinct advantage.

“We have become good friends, and it really helps playing alongside a guy you know you can rely on. We know what to expect from each other.”

As for the man inside him, Butch James, Barritt is full of respect.

“Butch was one of my heroes growing up, so I have loved every minute of playing alongside him.

“Our combination has developed. We are able to read each other, and Butch is a really good communicator on the field which definitely helps. We are also able to play each other’s roles because we have both played in the other’s position.”

Barritt has also benefitted from the fact that his coach, Dick Muir, was one of South Africa’s finest, yet often under-rated inside centres.

Muir was never full of pace, but he knew how to read the game and organise a backline, and that has benefitted Barritt no end.

“He has made a huge difference on my game. His understanding of the game has helped all the individual players in the side.”

Muir played alongside current Sharks such as Percy Montgomery and Bobby Skinstad, and the experience of players like that has definitely blended with the raw talent of guys like Ryan Kankowski, Waylon Murray, JP Pietersen and Barritt in a successful manner.

“It helps to have players with such experience backing you,” says Barritt.

The combination of Barritt and Murray, two homegrown Sharks talents, has been the envy of other unions. But what has made it so dynamic is the fact these players are playing alongside the likes of AJ Venter, Percy Montgomery and John Smit.

And that dynamism which sees the Sharks in the best position they have ever had to win the elusive Super rugby title.

365 Digital

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