In Focus: Nigel Mukarati
Nigel Mukarati insists Stourbridge are not thinking about promotion this season, despite the club sitting on the cusp of a top two spot in National Two North.
Stour are in the hunt for a shot at National One and are only two points off the promotion places as we enter Round 19 of the season.
Following a flying start to this campaign which saw Neil Mitchell’s side win nine consecutive matches, Stour hit a mini-blip in form.
They went on a four game winless streak between November and December, but they have since recovered by picking up four successive victories.
However, the 31-year-old admits after targeting a place in National One previously, Stourbridge went into this campaign with lower expectations.
“We have had a successful season, but having been at the club for five years, we had different aims at the start of this year,” Mukarati told ncarugby.com. “We managed to hold on to about 14 players so we had to add to the squad.
https://t.co/fAwGIkO1To National Two North Round 18 Review: @SaleFC beat Sheffield to go top as @SedgleyTigers edge past Hinckley #Nat2n pic.twitter.com/lOb7du6Kam
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“I think it is the youngest team we have had during my time at Stourbridge, so it was all about gelling as a team and taking the season on a game by game basis.
“We had a great start by winning nine straight games and we clicked as a unit because every single player bought into the vision of Rod Petty and Neil Mitchell. We had a sticky patch where we lost three games, but we have picked up again because we kept trusting our systems and we have become more clinical again.
“Of course, we know we are in the mix at the right end of the table, but there is no pressure this season. We are just going about our business with 13 games left to play.”
This is a different approach to any Mukarati seems to have experienced during his time with Stourbridge. The Midlands outfit have recently been close to gaining promotion into National One on a few occasions, with the most notable attempt coming in May 2013 when a late Worthing Raiders try denied them a spot in the third tier of English rugby.
The forward puts Stour’s near misses down to injuries, but also the pressure that comes with playing for a club like Stourbridge.
“When I first joined, I knew Stourbridge were a National One side,” he said. “So, there was always that feeling that we had to get back to that level and I think that is why it has been an emotional roller coaster!
“This year, we know how tight this league is and we have to focus on each game as it comes. We have changed our approach so we put a lot of work into analysing our opposition.
“It is then up to us to adapt our game plan and so far, we have done well. We have to keep working because there are big tests to come and anyone can beat anyone in this division. Just look at our result against Sheffield Tigers. Everyone expected us to win, but they gave us a real game and we lost.”
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— Stourbridge RFC (@StourbridgeRFC) January 17, 2018
This weekend, Stour go to Chester aiming to extend their four game winning streak and Mukarati was not surprised by the way the squad reacted following their dip in results towards the end of the calendar year.
Stourbridge haven’t graced the top two since their play-off defeat five years ago and even though Mukarati isn’t looking past each game week, he would dearly love to challenge for a place in National One.
“No-one was moaning when things weren’t going right,” Mukarati added. “Not one person was letting the team down with any sort of negative attitude. The atmosphere remained enjoyable and that was key.
“We have Chester this weekend which is a hard place to go. They play really well at home and they also recently beat Hinckley so we must stick to our game plan.
“We can’t look too far ahead, but I think I would cry if we managed to gain promotion! I am enjoying my time at this well run, family club and we know there is that goal to finish in the top two.
“But, we have to take nothing for granted. We have to continue working hard because the next 13 games are like cup finals because it is so tight. We just don’t look past each match, but it would be nice if a top two place happened!
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