Booze free Leopards to pounce
Leon Boshoff (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Booze or rugby glory. Make your pick.
That was the choice put to the Leopards players by their coach, Leon Boshoff, who does not believe there is place for alcohol in a professional player's career.
And, according to Boshoff, who took over the coaching reins from Chaka Willemse towards the end of last season, the players support his approach.
The former Western Transvaal and Lions hooker spoke about the approach on Thursday as he prepared his playing squad for the Currie Cup.
"I said that booze is out if you want to play professional rugby. End of story," said Boshoff.
"The guys rolled their eyes and said they would still like to braai a bit this week and drink some beer. I told them: "Guys, booze is out. You can drink again when you retire. You won't be here if you drink.
"If you want to play Super Rugby you have to make your mark inside three years or you are gone. You are in or out. We have brought that into our culture and the players have bought into it."
Residents of Potchefstroom have apparently told Boshoff that they only see the players consume cooldrink when they are in town.
"I couldn’t believe it. In Potchefstroom? It shows you something is starting to happen here. You have your entire life left to party if you really want to. Drink when you are finished playing, but give yourself the opportunity of making the best of your rugby career," said the coach.
Now the Leopards have to cope without beer. However, Boshoff believes there is enough talent in his squad to prevent a repeat of last season when the team finished at the bottom of the Currie Cup log.
A few players have come to the Leopards from bigger unions in the hope that they will get more game time.
"Flanker MB Lusaseni is very promising. I saw one game of his (for Griquas) against the Lions last year and immediately contracted him," said Boshoff.
"New No 8 Morné Hanekom will be an excellent link between forwards and backs, and then we have got Lions flank Renaldo Bothma. He was their find of the year and I can't believe that they let him go."
Centre Joubert Engelbrecht is also back in Potch after being part of the Lions' Super Rugby training squad.
"We have also got Charl Weideman as an inside centre. The two centres complement one another well and I think they could become a Jean de Villiers-Jaque Fourie combination," said Boshoff.
"Our new fullback, George Tossel, will also get people talking. He weighs 107kg and is good under the high ball.
"And don't forget about Brandon Snyman. He had 22 professional boxing bouts in the ring and I think he's the strongest lock in the country, even if he's a late developer," he said of the former Griquas player.
Boshoff’s list does not end there.
"We have the loosehead prop who will play in the next World Cup, BG Uys. You could certainly write about him."
Boshoff will be assisted by new backline coach Burger van der Westhuizen, who replaces DP Swart.
According to Boshoff, his team is aiming to finish at least sixth in the Currie Cup.