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New coach Van der Westhuizen confident of winning start

Bermuda’s national rugby team will look to make a winning start under new coach Roedolf van der Westhuizen when they begin their Caribbean Championship title defence tomorrow.

South African Van der Westhuizen takes over the coaching reins from Lawrence Bird who is taking a break from the fold, having led Bermuda to back-to-back Caribbean titles in 2011 and 2012.

Up first for Van der Westhuizen’s side are USA Rugby South who take on Bermuda in a North Zone second round group game at the National Sports Centre (NSC) tomorrow at 4pm.

Relishing the challenge ahead, Van der Westhuizen dismissed any extra pressure on his team as two-time champions and insisted they still considered themselves as “new kids on the block.”

“Maybe people think (the pressure is on us) but with me and (fellow coach) Phil Hall on board for the first time, we don’t see ourselves as two-time champions we see ourselves as the new kids on the block,” said Van der Westhuizen, who represented South Africa at junior levels.

“We need to put our stamp of authority on the way we play rugby, and regardless of what happened in the past we want to do well.

“I’m not fazed about the fact we’re the defending champions — that won’t play any role in the things I do. I’m out to show I’m a capable coach.”

Van der Westhuizen admitted he had big shoes to fill in succeeding Bird, who he expects to return to the national team set up in the future.

He said: “Lawrence has stepped away due to personal issues but he has indicated that he would be interested in coming back ... he always jokes that he will come back ‘if selected’.

“Lawrence is someone who has been on the Island for ages whereas I have only been on the Island for two years and probably won’t stay here for the rest of my life, so there’s a good chance he will end up doing it again down the road.

“But, while I’m on the Island I will be involved in (Bermuda national team) rugby in some way.”

Leading Bermuda into a Caribbean Championship campaign is a “special honour” for Van der Westhuizen, who is confident his side can defeat USA Rugby South.

“We started off slow (in training) and have lost a couple of key players due to injuries and personal issues,” said Van der Westhuizen, “but the last couple of weeks have been more than I could have hoped for and I feel we are well prepared.

“To be involved in a fixture like this is special — it’s something I will treasure for years to come.

“We need to win our first game to remove some of the pressure when we play Cayman away on June 1. We want to get this game in the bag and set us up nicely for the Cayman game.”

USA Rugby South went undefeated during their Caribbean Championship qualifiers and defeated Cayman 9-7 in their first North Zone match.

Bermuda won their second successive Caribbean title by beating Guyana 18-0 at the (NSC) last summer.

The previous year they defeated the same opponents 11-0 in Georgetown, Guyana to claim Bermuda’s first Caribbean title in more than a decade.

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Published May 17, 2013 at 12:40 pm (Updated May 17, 2013 at 12:40 pm)

New coach Van der Westhuizen confident of winning start

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