Lood all smiles as form catapults
Johannesburg - South African rugby fans have only caught glimpses of the talent that is Lood de Jager in recent years since he burst onto the scene in 2014 and claimed the SA Rugby Player of the year title in 2015.
The big lock, whose move to the Bulls at times seemed tied to their fortunes, has struggled with injury and being in a team that hasn’t always performed as they should, given their player resources, according to supersport.com website.
But if 2018 has been one thing, it has been a year where De Jager is once again looming large on the scene and close, if not better at times, than his form in 2015.
This past weekend against the Sharks it was De Jager who was the forceful forward that led the Bulls pack in work and deed. In making a gobsmacking 23 tackles on the day, De Jager not only put his body on the line for his team, but was the epitome of the way the Bulls won the day under coach John Mitchell.
And the big man is clearly enjoying things as they are currently at Loftus Versfeld, which in turn should be good news for Rassie Erasmus and the Springboks.
De Jager credits the New Zealand coach for his resurgence and has more than just a hint of a smile when it comes to talking about how he enjoys his rugby at the moment.
“I think coach Mitch has had a massive part playing that and he gives us a lot freedom and wants us to express ourselves and do what we do well. We as a team are playing well and it is easy to play well in a team that is playing well. I’m really enjoying my rugby and hopefully we can continue with that,” De Jager smiles, especially when the word “physicality” is mentioned.
“The physical part comes naturally to me from a young age. But it is the mobility part and the fitness and work rate part I’ve been struggling with. So I’m trying to work on that and that part of my game. So the physical part for a guy in South Africa playing lock, the physical part should come naturally.”
De Jager switches to PR mode when talking about the win over the Sharks, but like his coach admits the plan was to hit them early.
“Ja I think it was a good win firstly. Coach John mentioned it that if you put in the work during the week things will work out for us in the end.”
“I think we had the mindset to go out and run especially the first 20 minutes to get the intensity up. We heard it was going to rain and then we went out and played the situation. The first 15 to 20 minutes we got off to a good start and we attacked well. I think with the rain and stuff in the second half we said we don’t want the ball anymore let them play in the rain and we’ll try and defend.”
“I think it is a thing we train during playing different situations and playing different situations and ready for what you see. Coach Mitch encourages us a lot to play what we see and don’t see and don’t think too much, it’s going well for us.”
De Jager is a bit wary of this weekend’s opponent, the Melbourne Rebels, who have been the find of the season thus far.
“They’ve scored the second most tries in the competition thus far so they are a good attacking side. They slipped up against the Jaguares but they have had some great victories as well and scored a lot of tries. We definitely need to be sharp on the defence and hopefully we can force some turnovers and score some points.”
“It’s a massive boost for us being at home. We want to take it week by week but we want to win our home games and make Loftus a fortress. We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves and are focussing on the Rebels.”
And if De Jager can mirror his form thus far in the season, he will be just as inspirational to his pack as he was against the Sharks.