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Loftus Versfeld: A difficult place to visit says Umaga

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Benetton flyhalf Jacob Umaga did not downplay the immense challenge of facing the Bulls at their fortress Loftus Versfeld.

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The Italian team will take on the Bulls on Saturday as they fight to keep their play-off dreams alive.

Currently holding on to eighth place with 48 points, Benetton can’t afford a defeat with Connact hot on their trail in ninth with 44 points.

A win will see them climb to fifth depending on the other results of Stormers, Ulster and Edinburgh.

Benetton are heading into the Round 17 clash as underdogs against the high-flying Bulls.

The Pretoria boast an incredible home record this season, with their only loss being a 22-27 defeat to defencing URC champs Munster in Round 14.

“There’s no doubt about it, it’s going to be a difficult challenge,” Benetton Jacob Umaga said ahead of the Loftus showdown.

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“Not many teams win there, so it’s a difficult place to go.

“However we are going there with the mindset to perform for 80 minutes and to get as much out of it as we can.”

Benetton’s impressive run is by no means a fluke, especially following their 25-24 win over Sharks last weekend.

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Making his super-sub intervention, it was as a replacement flyhalf Umaga that went over for a try three minutes from time and then held his nerve to slot the match-winning conversion in a crucial victory for the play-off chasing visitors.

“It was a bit nervy to be fair because when I scored the try I actually landed on my knee and my leg was a little bit numb,” he revisited the moment.

“So I was kind of worrying a little bit if I was going to be alright for the kick, but I think the adrenalin got me through.”

 

Composure

Umaga showed plenty of composure with his match-winning heroics for Benetton – which is rather appropriate given his business interests outside the game.

Along with teammate and good friend Paolo Odogwu, he is the joint owner of a clothing company called Composure Club.

It’s a venture they first embarked upon when they were together at Wasps some four years ago.

“We were hanging out a lot as friends and we are both into fashion,” explained the England international.

“It was coming up to lockdown, so we thought why not give it a go.

“He made a T-shirt for my birthday and from there we played around with different logos and did our first drop in May 2021.

“We kind of describe it as streetwear, comfort clothing for everyone really.

“We try to spread it as much as possible and target any and all ages. We have quite a broad range of customers.

“There has been support from a lot of people.

“It’s mainly an online business at the moment, but we do have some stuff in the club shop at the Stadio Monigo. They have been really helpful.

“It’s something we knew wasn’t going to be an overnight thing, we kind of wanted to let it take time.

“The rugby is obviously our main thing. Then, when we get the time to put into the business we do that.

“The main goal for us was to have something to support life after rugby, to get something sorted while we are playing for when the time comes we have to hang our boots up, that we have something to fall back into.”

Having moved to Benetton after Wasps folded in 2022, utility back Umaga was then reunited with his pal Odogwu at the Italian club the following year.

“It’s been such a good signing having him here, firstly for me as a friend and a business partner, but also because he has done so well,” he said.

“He’s really provided some impact, so it’s been good to have him here.”

Umaga has just about one of the most recognisable surnames in the game, with his father Mike having played Test rugby for Samoa and uncle Tana having captained New Zealand, amid winning 74 caps.

In addition, the late great All Blacks forward Jerry Collins was a cousin of his dad and uncle.

So given his rugby roots, was it inevitable that young Jacob would take up the sport?

“There wasn’t much family pressure, but it was always something that we did,” he replied.

“I was always watching my dad’s teams play or going to training with his clubs and I just kind of fell into it naturally.”

*Additional Source: @URCOfficial 

 

 

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