Rohan Janse van Rensburg chats to Sport24
Cape Town - In an exclusive interview, ROHAN JANSE VAN RENSBURG talks about
the Springbok training camp, taking his game to new heights and the Lions’ clash
with the Waratahs in Johannesburg on Saturday.
asked: What is your assessment of your start to the season after defeating the
Janse van Rensburg: An away win is always crucial
in a competition as lengthy as Super Rugby. It doesn’t matter how you win, it’s just about getting the victory under the belt away from home.
At times against the Cheetahs we looked a bit down in the dumps and, as such,
this week the main focus has been on chasing intensity, awareness and being
quicker than we were last Saturday. Complements to the Cheetahs because they
came out all guns blazing in the beginning and it was difficult to defend
against them because they were so motivated. However, we know that we have room
for improvement and there are learning curves that we still have to overcome.
On a personal front, it was quite interesting playing on the wing against the
Cheetahs as it was the first time I took up the position since my school days.
Despite scoring a brace of tries, I didn’t see the ball as often as I’m used to
when I occupy the centre berth. It’s always good to learn something new but I
would actually love to move back to the midfield because a player misses his
primary position. However, I’m happy to play on the wing if the coach feels
it’s in the best interests of the team. Anything the team requires, I’ll more
than gladly do because I’m here to serve the team and not play for myself.
asked: After a stellar 2016 season, how does the team intend to maintain high
Coach Akkies (Johan Ackermann) always emphasises to
us that we can’t expect that the jersey is ours. You need to work hard to wear
the jersey and if you are not performing the way you should be, it will go to
another player because we have quality depth. Moreover, it’s crucial to take it
game by game otherwise you can sometimes get caught in a trap if you focus on
the season as a whole. We won’t get ahead of ourselves after reaching the Super
Rugby final last season and one of the most important factors is to remain
coachable. At the Lions, it’s not just about taking pride in who you are and
what you can do but also being able to listen to others and improve yourself in
various ways. Super Rugby is an unrelenting competition and you have to be
willing to adapt. The plan that worked last season might not work this term
because other teams have evolved and added more strings to their bow. Every
team’s perspective or motivation can change on a weekly basis, so as an
individual and collective we have to be single-minded and make improvements and
incremental gains. I take pride in my game and do extra work in training in
order to expand my repertoire. What also serves us well at the Lions is that we
are allowed to express ourselves freely and aren’t boxed in.
asked: You appear to be a humble individual. How have you remained so grounded?
I believe my late mother raised me right. I have
never felt that I am bigger or better than anyone else. To reach success you
have to fail. My motto in life is to take every opportunity with a heart full
of joy. I’m a religious person and believe that God gifted me my talent,
strength and wisdom. I’m a friend to everyone I meet and that is what I strive
towards every day of my life. I might play rugby professionally but I’m still
an ‘average Joe’ who people can approach and speak to.
asked: How does it feel to have been named in the 41-man Springbok training
RJVR: To be included in the first of three Springbok training camps with
the June Test series against France in mind is a massive privilege personally.
I remember when I was younger and was not even playing Super Rugby but I always
hoped that my name would one day be on a Springbok squad list. Being part of
the end-of-year tour and receiving my first Test cap for South Africa against
Wales was special and a dream come true. I’m humbled to be part of the
Springbok environment and feel that this is going to be a big year for Bok rugby.
I believe we are going take a massive step up and move in the right direction
this season. I can’t actually wait to meet up with the players and coaches on
Sunday to put the planning in place in order to make this the best year Springbok
rugby has ever had. I’m very expectant and optimistic about the first training
camp that will conclude next Tuesday.
asked: What’s your message to disgruntled followers who don’t share your
The players are willing to be coached and the
desire is there to expand our game in a way that the South African public wants
to see the Springboks play. It’s a very young squad and the players are willing
to embrace an expansive game and play the way everyone likes to see rugby
played. I can only see positives with the playing personnel we have at our
disposal. The home-grown versus foreign-based player debate will always be a
touchy subject but I’m of the view that if a player is at the peak of his
powers, he will perform well in any jersey. There are so many quality South
African rugby players from which to choose and a head coach should pick players
who are in form no matter where they are located on the map. In terms of the
coaching set-up, Franco Smith will continue to add value overseeing the Boks’
backline and attacking play. I worked with him on the end-of-year tour and can
attest to the fact that he has a good rugby mind and knows what he wants to
achieve. Meanwhile, Brendan Venter has been linked with the vacant role of
Springbok defence coach. I worked with coach Brendan when I represented the SA
under-20 team and, like coach Franco, he loves it when the team is playing with
the ball and employing an expansive game. I can’t wait for the camp to start so
that we can see what the plan is from the coaches for the next chapter of
Springbok rugby. It was a trying season for us in 2016 (South Africa lost eight
of 12 Tests) but I still believe in the Springboks and what’s to come.
Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.
asked: What are your expectations ahead of the match with the Waratahs on
It’s going to be a good contest. The Waratahs are
always a competitive side and are very well-respected. They possess a dangerous
backline and a very physical tight five. They can play both ways - an
expansive, running game and closer to the forwards. In a way, you don’t know what
to expect from them so we are going to have to assess how they are playing on
the day and then adapt our tactics accordingly. Everyone is energetic within our
camp and looking forward to our first home game of the season. It doesn’t
actually make a difference if we play the Australian or New Zealand sides in
cross-conference fixtures because we don’t compare ourselves to them. We
compare ourselves to ourselves after every match. We focus on what we need to
do as a team in order to improve whether it be working on our attack, defence,
set-piece, breakdown or tactical kicking plan.