Rugby

Lood’s late-season message to Boks

2018-12-01 22:33
Lood de Jager
Lood de Jager (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Lurking with intent ... that’s Lood de Jager.

READ: Last-gasp Jantjies drop leads BaaBaas to comeback win

While a Barbarians match should never be used as a major yardstick for Test credentials or positional pecking orders, the lanky Bulls lock nevertheless left a handy little summer missive about his desire to be integral to Springbok plans once more, for World Cup year, at Twickenham on Saturday.

De Jager, in a BaaBaas cause coached by his national mastermind Rassie Erasmus, earned himself an early birthday present - he turns 26 in just over two weeks - through the player-of-the-match mantle in a late snatch of the spoils against Argentina.

The eternally popular multinational outfit, albeit heavily dominated by South Africans on the day, broke the hearts of a motivated (certainly evident in their bouts of tetchiness) Pumas team as Elton Jantjies’ cool 79th-minute dropped goal broke the deadlock for a 38-35 result.

This contest wasn’t always an oil painting, by any means, as a plethora of handling errors by both sides had a disruptive effect on continuity.

But the reasonable London crowd also had good reason to applaud enough, compelling passages of play … and revel in the extent of the fightback by the BaaBaas.

Beginning with five Springboks in the pack and three behind the scrum, they had looked set for a possible hiding by around the 25th minute, when Pablo Matera and company opened up a formidable 28-7 lead, their superior cohesion as a Test group quite obvious at the time.

Perhaps a little too buoyed by the public desire for them to fling the ball around in time-honoured “BaaBaas spirit”, Erasmus’s charges were just too loose and cavalier initially: how often, for instance, do you see Pieter-Steph du Toit, of all people, putting through a grubber, or De Jager executing a cheeky through-the-legs pass?

But as their foothold on the game improved, so did the BaaBaas’ belief that a come-from-behind triumph was feasible.

De Jager, who stayed on the park throughout and seldom dipped in urgency, played an integral part in the turnaround, registering the levelling try in the 75th minute.

It was a pleasing one, too, as he rounded off a move sparked by compatriot Jesse Kriel’s clever snipe and offload with a trademark, eager gallop for the posts.

For someone of 2.06m and hardly feather-light at 125kg, De Jager has fine acceleration out of the blocks and then long, powerful strides that make him incredibly hard to tackle decisively.

He is certainly expanding his reputation for scoring tries through thunderous surges: at least two in the green and gold jersey coming quite swiftly to mind.

The first was on just his third Test appearance - and maiden start - against Scotland at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in June 2014, when he looked more like a speeding wing, and then he got another easy-on-the-eye dot-down from longish range against Japan at the 2015 World Cup, an achievement cruelly lost to the memories of many in the drama of that stunning Brighton defeat for the Boks.

His 2018 season cruelly curtailed by a lengthy injury layoff in the middle of it, De Jager stayed largely peripheral on the end-of-year tour as he slowly regathered his mojo, and his quest for the No 5 jersey not aided by Franco Mostert’s admirable reliability in the berth.

But if former Lions favourite Mostert is renowned for the consistency of his general industry and sound lineout management, De Jager may always have the edge in athleticism and arguably even grunt at close quarters; he is a notably bigger physical specimen.

The BaaBaas game did provide a reminder that De Jager is spiritedly after the now UK-based Mostert’s Bok starting berth in the critical 2019 calendar year, especially as the player-of-the-match adjudicator, BBC commentator and former Wales star Jonathan Davies, lauded as “immense” De Jager’s work-rate and tackling on Saturday.

But the fixture also highlighted the professionalism and sheer toughness of Du Toit, the versatile marauder who has so sparkled as a blindside flanker for South Africa this year, yet will remain an appealing candidate himself for an international lock place if ever the need comes around.

The Stormers man had a sickening, accidental clash of heads with Matera in the 64th minute, crashing to the turf with blood quickly flowing from a crack right on the bridge of his nose and his eyes inevitably blackening quite ominously.

It seemed for all money that his afternoon was over ... but he resurfaced, noticeably rearranged nose and all, in the last three minutes or thereabouts to greatly aid the BaaBaas in closing out the result in their favour.

For his monumental efforts throughout 2018, Du Toit surely deserved to head off for his summer holiday defiantly standing for a rugby cause ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    barbarians  |  lood de jager  |  rugby

 

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