Jordaan on the rise at Cheetahs
Bloemfontein - Cheetahs loose forward Niell Jordaan’s recent rise in senior rugby has come at the perfect time.
Jordaan made a notable impression during the final two league rounds of Super Rugby.
Making his tournament debut for the Cheetahs a fortnight ago, the 23-year-old delivered a solid individual performance on attack and defence against the Waratahs.
And last weekend, he continued that momentum as he played an influential role during the Bloemfontein side’s first Super Rugby win over the Bulls at Loftus Versveld - scoring a try during the 42-29 victory.
The triumph over the Bulls sparked optimism during the early stages of head coach Franco Smith’s reign - the same man who coached Jordaan with the Varsity Cup-winning Shimlas team earlier this year, and made the big call to promote the youngster.
“He doesn’t like it when I do this, but I have to credit Franco for my good form, especially this season,” Jordaan told MyPlayers.co.za. “He shows a lot of faith in me, and believes I can offer something special to the team. When you have a guy like him backing you, you feel inspired and motivated to contribute as much as you can on the field.
“Franco is a great coach. He’s passionate about his job and ensures he does what is required to achieve success. But at the same time, he ensures the players are reminded that rugby is something we all love, and we must all enjoy it. When things do get a bit heated or serious - Franco will crack a joke to lighten up the mood. He builds good relationships with his players.”
Jordaan added that the result against the Bulls was a huge confidence booster ahead of the Currie Cup in August.
“The players have a week off to rest, but the guys were just excited and determined to continue the new developments and improvements,” said Jordaan. “We delivered a good performance against a very challenging and experienced Bulls team, and that gives us the belief that we can do well during this year’s Currie Cup. As a group, we want to achieve something great.”
However, it hasn’t always been easy for Jordaan.
He was a schoolboy who showed plenty of potential, having starred at Under-13 and Under-16 levels for the Pumas, before finishing school at Grey College, where he excelled for Free State Under-18 in 2009 and 2010, earning him his place in the SA Under-18 Elite squad.
After school, he struggled with a lack of senior opportunities at the Cheetahs, but decided to make the most of the situation by balancing his professional career and academics.
“I didn’t get as many senior opportunities as I would’ve wanted, and I struggled with injury at times. However, I reviewed the situation and made the important decisions to keep moving forward,” said Jordaan.
“I had time to focus on my studies at Free State University. This year, I celebrate having a degree in B.Com General Management. I also enjoyed playing for Shimlas in the Varsity Cup, which was a great experience.
“Now I can fully focus on my rugby and make the most of the senior opportunities given to me, without worrying about my studies.
“I would encourage all young players to make the necessary sacrifices during the earlier years, before your professional rugby career becomes very busy. It’s important to have a qualification behind your name to prepare for life after rugby. Once you retire or you suffer a career-ending injury, you need to have a Plan B to support your future.”
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