Prior to their BLAST Premier Spring Series Group game against Astralis, we spoke to Ninjas In Pyjamas' REZ around the new lineup, and expectations moving forward.
For Ninjas in Pyjamas, the recent weeks have all been about change. Firstly, they refreshed their branding for the first time in 9 years. Secondly, they surprisingly changed their Counter Strike (CSGO) lineup following the benching of Simon "twist" Eliasson, and the addition of Young Ninjas' Erik "ztr" Gustafssonas as a stand in.
For this new look, their first hurdle is not easy, as they face Astralis in the opening of the BLAST Premier Spring Series Groups, ahead of which, we spoke to Fredrik "REZ" Sterner.
The big talking point at the moment is the addition of ztr as a stand in, have you been looking at him while he’s been playing for the Young Ninjas?
I’ve been looking through their games in Young Ninjas, and I’ve seen a lot of potential, as well as in him. I think he’s a really good talent, and is really calm. He doesn’t really have experience, but it feels like he does, and he’s not afraid to do things. I think he can be a top player in the future and I think he’s a good addition for now.
Your final tournament with twist was cs_summit, you finished in playoffs but lost to Virtus.pro and the new Cloud9 - would you say the relaxed atmosphere and losing to eventual champions still made it a decent tournament for yourselves?
I wouldn’t say it was decent, I think we’re unhappy and unsatisfied, we wanted to go further, and we have bigger goals than that, and we didn’t reach that expectation. We felt like we had to do something and this happened.
Moving forward, you’ve added ztr and his first task is Astralis, how do you think him and the team will cope considering his lack of experience?
Yes (laughs), going up against Astralis as your first tier 1 game is a big step for him, and I wish him the best of luck. I don’t think he’s nervous that much, we’ve had practice, and it’s going well. We don’t have a lot of expectations right now, we have a new player, and we need some time to get him into our stratbook and playbook and all of that. I think it’s new to him and for us as well, we don’t have that high expectations, but we’re going to try our best, and we can shock Astralis, we’ve beaten them before, and we can do it again.
Elsewhere in the group you've got OG and BIG, is this a group you think you can finish top 2 in?
I think we can make top 2, I think we can beat them all, and we have a good chance even though we have a brand-new player. I think we can do it, and it’s obviously going to be hard because OG and BIG have played for a long time now together, and they have experience, so it’s going to be difficult - but I think we can do it.
On a personal note you joined NiP almost 4 years ago now as a young player, you looked up to the long serving players. Now you’re at the other end of that scale. Would you say that’s a role you’ve taken on around when the youngers come in, using yourself as a figure for them to look up to?
I wouldn’t say I’m a kind of veteran or so, but I am the one with the most experience, but it’s not that much of a difference between me and them. I think a few times here and there, I can bring stuff that I have learned in the past and teach them a few things. I think its really minor and not big of a deal. I haven’t really taken the ‘old guy’ role yet at least (laughs).
Lastly, what’s your own personal and team goals for 2021?
Our goal right now is to at least reach a final, and personally I want to win a tournament, I haven’t won one since Oakland . It’s been a really long time now, and I want to win a tournament. Now we have a new player addition, as a stand in, and we have to start over from scratch. It’s going to be difficult, but my goal still stands, and I think the whole team goal is to reach a final at least, even with the circumstances.
Thank you to Rez for taking the time, and you can catch NiP face Astralis, Thursday 4th at 3:30pm GMT.
Image via Ninjas in Pyjamas