Doing justice to the legacy that is the Bok lock factory
INSIDE THE BOK CAMP: Seasoned lock Lodewyk de Jager finds himself in good company, on the eve of his 50th Test cap.
De Jager, 28, will bring up his half-century for the Springboks against Argentina in Gqeberha on Saturday.
Over the years South Africa has been blessed with amazing locks.
Players like Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha and Frik du Preez – to provide only a few examples – sent shivers down the spine of many opponents.
Very little has changed.
Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert, Rudolf Snyman and De Jager continue to torment the opposition – securing the 2019 World Cup, Rugby Championship and the recent series against the British Irish Lions.
This Saturday will be another big moment for locks, as De Jager runs out for his 50th Test for the Springboks.
De Jager, who made his Test debut against Wales in 2014, will start in the second row alongside Marvin Orie – who in turn earns his first Test start – and he admitted that while he has had his share of injury setbacks, it is has been a rewarding journey.
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“If you look at the history of Springbok rugby, lock has been one of the best positions,” De Jager told a virtual media briefing – in the build-up to the second Rugby Championship Test against Los Pumas.
“There have been some real legends of the game in this position,” he added.
“There are also great players in this squad.
“It is a massive honour to play and I want to go out and do my best.
“Playing my 50th Test is a true privilege,” said De Jager.
“It is also an honour to do it with teammates with whom I’ve come a long way – such as [flyhalf] Handré [Pollard].
“Both of us made our first [Test] start in 2014 and we’ve been through injuries, wins and defeats, so to be with players like him on the field in my 50th Test is a privilege and I’m very excited.”
De Jager’s career has been plagued with injuries and the latest one nearly cost him a spot in the B&I Lions tour.
The 28-year-old tore his meniscus when landing during a lineout drill at training with English Sale Sharks on April 4.
Quizzed about his whirlwind career, De Jager said: “I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of real highs, but also real lows of SA rugby.
“I had a few more injuries than the average guy, but that’s part of my journey and I have to overcome it.
“I believe everything happens for a reason, and you need to adapt and hopefully overcome those things and come back stronger.”
De Jager expected another challenging encounter against Argentina at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday.
“They have exceptional line-out forwards – guys like Guido Petti and Pablo Matera are highly rated in the line-outs and I don’t think they get the respect they deserve,” he said.
“They are a very good line-out contesting team and they are very physical when it comes to the maul, so for us a pack it will be a massive challenge against them.
“A lot of the time people think they play with Argentinean flair and have a beautiful running game, but they are actually a well-organised team they put you under pressure come set-piece time, and they play with a lot of passion and physicality.”