Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Johannesburg - The Vodacom Bulls were missing confidence at the beginning of the season as things just didn’t want to click. But now that they have found their confidence, it makes them a dangerous animal with an eye on the target of defending their Vodacom Super Rugby title in the next six weeks.
While it can take one loss to kill all those plans, the focus in the Bulls’ eyes is apparent of late, and so much that their senior players have rediscovered form at a crucial time, especially after weeks of critics writing them off ahead of this year’s Rugby World Cup.
One of the mainstays, the stars in recent weeks has been the bullocking form of Danie Rossouw. The big Springbok, bearded and rampant on the run is certainly enjoying his time on the field, so much so that it was a surprise not to see him get the man of the match award against the Cheetahs after an inspired performance off the bench.
Asked what superfood had inspired him to his refound form, Rossouw – not a man normally of many words, just smiled and said: “Biltong”.
But jokes aside, while he may be the unluckiest player in rugby, always moved around from flank to lock because of his versatility and struggling both at Super Rugby and Springbok level to find a permanent run in the starting line-up, Rossouw is certainly the type of player you would go to war with.
Humble, but honest, Rossouw credits the confidence in the team ranks for his growing form, and wants to make it a memorable year as he prepares to depart Pretoria for Japan after the World Cup.
“Its nothing really, I have got a lot more game time of late, and this is my last year at the Bulls. You never want to finish off on a low note, so I have been giving my all so that people can remember you,” Rossouw said. And with four straight wins giving the team momentum, the final mentality is working for the Bulls, with Rossouw crediting the confidence for their form.
“The next game is like a final for us, it is vital. The coach keeps it in our heads the whole time and we keep focused. While the pressure never comes off us, you can see how the confidence has grown in this squad, and rugby is a confidence game. It definitely helps to have a couple of good wins under the belt,” he added.
Asked if he had unlocked the secret for the poor start to the competition, Rossouw was honest in his assessment.
“No hell, I leave that for the technical guys,” he laughs, “But it has much to do with confidence and the little things click into place when you have it. You can see we are a confident side now and it tells on the field in our execution.”
While Rossouw’s versatility has sometimes counted against him, he believes that with increased competition for places in this year’s squad it could work in his favour.
“The versatility has actually counted in my favour. For me, I have been lucky that I can play in a few positions, and it has actually helped me in my career. To me though, it’s all about the team, and if the coach feels I am needed on the bench, then it is okay, I want to make my contribution in any way possible,” Rossouw explained.
“I hope that I am part of the World Cup squad, and that I get a chance to play at the World Cup. There are so many good looseforwards and locks at the moment. For me if I can get into that squad and play a few games it would be perfect for me.
“There is a lot more competition at the moment for places in the squad than there was in 2007. Guys like Willem Alberts, who is an exceptional player, are knocking at the door, while at lock a guy like Andries Bekker is playing great rugby. It makes it very tough and means I have to be at my best to make the squad.”
On a parting note, Rossouw just laughs when asked to compare his offload – one of the best in Super Rugby – to offload king Sonny Bill Williams. But it is clear it is a skill the big forward has worked on in his career and which has been one of his trademarks after bursting through tackles.
“Sonny Bill is still the master of the offload and he gets a lot of ball on the front foot with which he can show off,” Rossouw jokes, “But you know here at the Bulls we’re not a team that likes to show off, and we’re not a team that likes to offload, rather we just run straight.”
A veteran of two World Cups already, Rossouw’s form and versatility are an asset for his Bulls side. Springbok supporters will be hoping his continued run of form extends to a third World Cup, as it has for the Bulls.