Lood looks right stuff as Bulls skipper
Rob Houwing - Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town - So
far so good … it seems a more than reasonable observation to make following
Lood de Jager’s baptism on Saturday as the Bulls’ Super Rugby captain.
naturally applied to new head coach Pote Human: he’s off to a flier too, when
you consider that 40-3 destruction jobs on arch-rivals the Stormers don’t come
around every day.
But the business
was primarily done out in the middle at Loftus, of course, where the Bulls’
collective unity of purpose was a striking feature of their handsome win.
For that, it
seems almost impossible to downplay the influence of sound, suitably popular
The lanky De
Jager occupies one of the spinal positions in a rugby team – the
middle-jumping, so often lineout-calling lock – so Human probably figured that
it was a decent stepping stone to his ascension to the broader leadership.
let’s not forget, from a decent crop of candidates, too, not least being
flyhalf Handre Pollard, a former SA under-20 captain and increasingly a vital
cog in the Springbok machine.
remains in charge of the backline plans, and as De Jager’s official deputy; he
should take the reins seamlessly enough in situations where the big No 5 has
been deemed to have put in an energy-sapping shift in the engine room and is
called off before the 80 minutes have run their course for game-management
his own vital, typically spring-heeled and vigilant role in giving the Stormers
lineout a serious case of the collywobbles in the definitive first quarter on
Saturday, the 2.06-metre Bok second-rower was suitably active in all other
areas – including a healthy tackle count.
was also a discernible calmness to his captaincy, in the way he engaged not
only with his own troops but referee Jaco Peyper, too, whenever necessary.
De Jager also
comes across as agreeably affable and articulate in his television-interview and
general media dealings, not afraid to infuse a welcome dash of humour.
26-year-old, for whom 2018 was severely curtailed by injury, is clearly on a
mission this year to regain a starting place in the Test team, with the World
Cup such a massive target toward the end of it.
He was only
able to add two caps (off the bench, on the end-of-year tour) last year,
bringing his current tally up to 38, while former domestic rival from the
Lions, that eternal workaholic who is Franco Mostert, monopolised the green and
gold No 5 jersey with 11 starts in the season.
Mostert has taken up residence at faraway Gloucester in the English
Premiership, which should not do any harm, let’s face it, to De Jager’s quest
to gradually muscle his way back to the front of the Test pecking order in the
This may irk
some long-time Johannesburg devotees of Mostert, but with his more formidable build
and superior X-factor through his extraordinary athleticism, I would argue that
Alberton-born De Jager is well-placed already to achieve that goal by the time
the international roster comes around.
I have an
early gut feeling, into the bargain, that captaincy will be good for De Jager’s
overall game …
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