Pretoria - New Springbok call-up Rudy Paige is over the moon after his inclusion in the South African squad for the final phase of their year-end tour.
The Blue Bulls scrumhalf was on Thursday called up to Heyneke Meyer’s squad along with Golden Lions flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff.
The duo will join the Springbok squad on Sunday to provide specialist cover at scrumhalf and flyhalf.
Overseas-based Jano Vermaak, Morne Steyn and Johan Goosen will not be available to face Wales in Cardiff on November 29 as the game falls outside World Rugby's Test window.
The call-up for 25-year-old Paige was particularly pleasing after he had grown frustrated at a lack of game time in recent seasons. Before joining the Bulls in 2012, he was also on the books of the Lions.
But he struggled for game time at both unions until more recently, when stellar performances in the Currie Cup saw him usurp Piet van Zyl as the starting scrumhalf at the Bulls.
Sport24 on Thursday spoke to Paige at the launch of Isuzu SA as one of the Bulls’ new sponsors at the Gerotek Vehicle Testing Facility outside Pretoria.
“I’m very excited to join the group and to see how things unfold. It was a tough year for us at the Bulls, but it’s nice to get a reward like this after a long, hard season," said Paige.
Paige also highlighted key aspects of his game that showed marked improvement in the last while.
“I think my basics (improved). My kicking has improved a lot and I reduced my error rate. It has made me a better player.”
For the improvements in his game, Paige credited backline coach and former Springbok wing Pieter Rossouw’s influence.
Rossouw, also known as ‘Slaptjips’, has been the Bulls’ backline coach since 2008.
“Coach ‘Slaptjips’ has put in a lot of hard work behind the scenes. Video work, extra practice sessions... and just to concentrate on what a scrumhalf needs to do well.”
Paige will be back-up for Cobus Reinach and Francois Hougaard and will in all likelihood only get game time in the case of injury.
However, should the opportunity of playing arise, Paige believes he will be able to slot in seamlessly.
“I believe I will be able to slot in. I feel I’m at the right place. At the Bulls it’s easier to slot in at international level because we play a very similar game (to the Boks). Many people say it’s boring, but that’s how we’ve been winning all these years. So yes, I believe so. Obviously it’s about confidence and what the coach thinks of my game, but personally I believe my game would suit the Boks.”
When asked what he thinks sets his game apart from other scrumhalves, Paige replied: “I would say the quick manner in which I get rid of the ball from ruck to ruck, and upping the tempo (of play).”
The Boks tackle Italy in Padova on Saturday, before concluding their tour against Wales the following week.
Springbok squad for Wales Test:
Marnitz Boshoff, Nizaam Carr, Marcell Coetzee, Damian De Allende, Lodewyk de Jager, Jean de Villiers (captain), Ruan Dreyer, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Cornal Hendricks, Francois Hougaard, Jaco Kriel, Patrick Lambie, Willie le Roux, Victor Matfield, Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje, Tendai Mtawarira, Lwazi Mvovo, Scarra Ntubeni, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Rudy Paige, Handré Pollard, Julian Redelinghuys, Cobus Reinach, Seabelo Senatla, Jan Serfontein, Adriaan Strauss, Duane Vermeulen, Warren Whiteley