While UCT’s JJ Gagiano is heading to Tokyo to play for the US Eagles, another Ikey forward is back in Europe to play for his fatherland – Germany – against Spain this weekend. Bodo Sieber was interviewed for the IRB radio show Total Rugby.
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Germany begin their campaign in the top tier of the European Nations Cup on Saturday, a first match against Spain kicking off a campaign in which they will also play relative giants and World Cup veterans in Romania, Georgia and Portugal, as well as Russia.
Promotion was secured at the end of last season against Belgium by the narrowest of margins and now the players are looking forward to giving their all in a division from which two will qualify directly for Rugby World Cup 2011.
“It’s fantastic, many of us have been working towards this and looking forward to this, our debut in the A Division, for almost 10 years since we were Under 19s,” said Bodo Sieber, part of the German set-up for a number of years.
“We still have the core of those players playing together, so it’s great to be in a position to give it a good go. Most of the guys are quality players, a handful of them play in France, I play in South Africa so I think we have a good intensity going and a good team spirit.
“What’s really made it special for us is that we feel like a family, because we are not professional. A bit like the Portuguese used to say at the World Cup, talking about having that passion to play for your country, as opposed to being professional and coming from a different camp. That’s really helped us to get where we are now.”
This season Germany are setting their sights on survival in the division, targeting the two encounters against Spain as must-win games.
“Realistically, what we are trying to achieve is not to get relegated this year, so we have to win a certain number of games and we’ve identified teams that we have a chance of taking points from, and one of them is Spain so this weekend is very important for us,” Sieber told Total Rugby Radio.
Germany have already proved themselves capable of beating Spain in recent times. Two years ago the countries faced each other in the play-off to decide promotion to the top tier of the ENC and, although the Spanish won 42-28 on aggregate, the Germans did win the match on home soil, 18-6.
While Spain lost their campaign opener in Moscow 42-15, Germany’s dress rehearsal also mis-fired. They squandered a 9-8 half time lead to lose against a Wales Amateur XV 27-14 in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin.
“I’m thinking positive and trusting the players that we will be a completely different team in Madrid this week,” said national team coach Rudolf Finsterer.
Germany do recall a number of key players into the side. Robert Mohr joins the team from table topping ProB club La Rochelle and Alexander Widiker, Clemens von Grumbkow and Matthieu Franke are released by federale 1 club Orleans, also in France. Vice-captain Colin Grzanna from Berlin has also been given the all clear by doctors, despite requiring pins in a hand fracture.