Cape Town - Springbok lock Lood de Jager has sent out a warning to those writing the Bulls off at the moment, saying their sojourn to New Zealand may mean they are underdogs, but that they simply “have nothing to lose” at the moment.
De Jager has been one of the standouts in the team this season and is playing with a freedom that was last seen in 2015 when he burst onto the Springbok scene. The big loping lock even scored a beauty of a try to help his team beat the Hurricanes in Week 1 but has been a bit frustrated with the side’s form since then.
And now facing the Chiefs on Friday, few would give them a smattering of a chance in the game, but that doesn’t bother De Jager, who believes the lack of belief in their chances should be worn as a badge of honour and used as a motivation.
“It definitely doesn’t surprise me at all. People always write you off coming to New Zealand because their franchise rugby is so strong, as is their national side,” De Jager told the supersport.com website.
“Coming here you are always the underdog, but that gives us a bit more freedom to play, we have nothing to lose, we have our backs against the wall a bit and try and get a win on Friday.”
De Jager said coach John Mitchell’s influence had reignited his season and has been the reason why he is currently enjoying his rugby so much.
“A guy like John Mitchell has had a lot to do with that, he said to me at the beginning of the year he just wants me to play and not to think and worry too much about making mistakes, rather just give it my all and express myself,” he said.
“So that has really helped me and has taken a bit of pressure off my shoulders. It’s been good and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season and hopefully I can contribute to the team in more ways than one and help us play some winning rugby.
“I want to see myself as an all-round player, I don’t want to see myself as someone who just does one thing well. I want to do other things well as well and want to see myself as an all-round player. I’ve been enjoying the attack this year and there is a shackles-off mentality on attack, we can go out and express ourselves. It has definitely been nice and hopefully we can build on that this season.”
On the set-pieces that have plagued the Bulls in the last two games, De Jager says the players have taken note and believe they have rectified their own problems.
“I think it’s very important, you can’t compete in any competition if your set-piece doesn’t compete, our lineouts, scrums and mauls. Maybe a week ago our mauls cost us against the Lions and this last week our scrums weren’t good and we conceded a couple of penalties there. We will definitely go into the next game hoping to rectify that.
“The scrums on Saturday definitely disappointed. A few of those scrums were definitely 50-50 and they didn’t go our way. In one or two they outsmarted us a bit. We had a look at it already, and we will put in the work in the week and try and rectify it and hopefully get the results on Saturday.”
The Bulls will also face the Crusaders next week (March 23) before heading back to South Africa.
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Johnny Fa'auli, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Tiaan Falcon, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Lachlan Boshier, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Aidan Ross
Substitutes: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Karl Tu'inukuafe, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Michael Allardice, 20 Luke Jacobson, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 Declan O'Donnell
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Divan Rossouw, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Pierre Schoeman
Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Jason Jenkins/Tim Agaba, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Johnny Kotze
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