23 April 2023
Ahead of a vital derby day clash, Benhard Janse van Rensburg is anticipating “a great game, a hard game and a tough game” as the Exiles head to north London to face Saracens in Round 23 of the Gallagher Premiership.
Irish’s mainstay midfielder also described the match-up with their capital rivals as “a match to target” as the Exiles endeavour to stay in the hunt for a coveted top four finish.
At such an intense point of the season, Janse van Rensburg also took stock of the performances throughout the year from his teammates that have enabled Irish to reach postseason contention.
The centre described the positive vibe in Sunbury-On-Thames over the past three weeks, despite the lack of gametime for London Irish.
“The Premiership season combined with the Champions Cup games in between has worked us hard, so it’s good to have a little break like that as it helps out with the bodies of the guys that have been playing a lot,” Janse van Rensburg said.
“I got the chance to go up to Leicester to see my friend, Jasper Wiese, and played a few rounds of golf – unfortunately, he won!
“I’m very grateful that I’m healthy and haven’t got any big injuries, I try and give my all every week and if any niggles do come up, we have amazing physios here that are here to help me get on that pitch.
“Things have been going really well for us, particularly injury-wise, and I think on the field we are feeling good.
“Having a few weeks off with the Champions Cup games and the bye week has helped with that and has helped preparation for these last two games.
“They are two really big games for us that will count towards any potential play-off qualification.”
Janse van Rensburg recognises that there has been a noticeable growth in the team of late, with that collective bond peaking at just the right time of the campaign.
The South African praised the playing group’s graft in the last few months that has seen them attain six wins from their last seven league outings.
“I love the brand of rugby Irish play, it’s an exciting brand of rugby and I like being involved in it.
“At the start of the season and last season as well, some tight games didn’t go our way but I think the longer we play together, the more times we come up on the other side of those results.
“It shows how we’re growing as a group.
“Everyone has had a good season and that’s why we are where we are now; some of the youngsters like Henry [Arundell] with his x-factor, Tom Pearson, and Chandler Cunningham-South too off the bench have been amazing for us and made a difference.
“We have a lot of guys that give 100% and work hard, they don’t always stand out in a game but the graft they do up front helps to bring everything together.
“That’s what I love about this team.”
At the heartbeat of the Irish backline this Sunday lies the two-year Exiles Janse van Rensburg and Rory Jennings, a dynamic that alongside fly-half Paddy Jackson, creates a unique flair.
With that combination, Irish have won four of their six games when utilising the versatile backs at the core of their attacking dynamic against the likes of Harlequins, Sale Sharks and Northampton Saints.
Now, testing themselves against the first-place team in the league on derby day is something that excites the pair.
“I always like to compete against the best and I’m enjoying playing with Jenno [Rory Jennings] in midfield, so hopefully we can stand up to those guys on the other side of the pitch.
“He [Jennings] puts his body on the line every week, he’s a good ball player and I believe having three players who think like fly-halves benefits us in finding space for our wingers and making calls on what we see.
“But it doesn’t matter where I play; fly-half, midfield, full-back, loose forward, I just want to play.”
A seismic challenge awaits the Boys in Green this weekend, with battles across the pitch that Janse van Rensburg is eagerly awaiting.
Saracens, coming off the back of consecutive losses, still maintain their usual threat in the eyes of the 26-year-old.
“We always treat these games against Saracens and Harlequins as battles, and being at this stage of the season now makes it an even bigger game.
“We all see it as a massive London derby and we see it as a big game to target.
“We’re going to their home now, and after us beating them at our place they will want to make a statement up there.
“It might make it that bit more tough, but we know what’s on the line for us so we’re going with the mindset to win.
“It’s going to be a great game, a hard game and a tough game, but that’s something to look forward to.
“Saracens are a winning team and you always have to expect them to bounce back after two tough games in Europe and then against Saints, who are also in contention for the play-offs.”
Whilst attention circles around Irish’s prospects in the final pair of league games this term, Benhard employs the cautious approach synonymous with the on-field team at the Club when examining the upcoming weeks.
“Everyone knows these next few games are important for us, but the biggest thing is to try to not think about it too much.
“Being in the play-offs in a competition like the Premiership would be amazing, but we can’t and won’t look beyond Sunday.
“Our focus is always on the next game, we don’t worry about those things we can’t control and we concentrate on the things that are in our power.
“After that, whatever happens will happen.”