JC's parting gift to Lions
JC's parting gift to LionsSHARE
Jacobus Christo Janse van Rensburg will 'ride off' into the proverbial sunset soon, but the long-standing captain is determined to leave the Lions with a perfect parting gift.
The 27-year-old uncapped Springbok prop wants to ensure he plays part in the Johannesburg-based franchise regaining their Super Rugby status.
Having captained the Lions to a 26-19 win over the Southern Kings in the first of the two promotion-relegation matches in Port Elizabeth last week, Janse van Rensburg will run out in front for the last time in the return match at Ellis Park on Saturday – before heading to French team Bayonne, where he signed a to-year deal.
Janse van Rensburg, more affectionately known as JC, said he deliberately delayed his departure to France to help the Lions regain their Super Rugby status.
Describing himself as "calm and relaxed", the prop said he can't allow the emotions of his imminent departure to get the better of him.
"I still have a job to do," Janse van Rensburg told this website in an exclusive interview after one of his last training sessions in Johannesburg.
"Only once we've won the game [against the Kings on Saturday], secured our place in Super Rugby, then the emotions will probably kick in.
"At the moment my focus is on this game only.
"I want to play my part to ensure we get this union back in Super Rugby."
He confirmed that he had promised the Lions to see their campaign to regain promotion – after being stripped of their Super Rugby status in controversial circumstances by the South African Rugby Union – through to the bitter end.
"From the outset, when I decided to go abroad, I told coach Ackers [Johan Ackermann], I will first complete the promotion-relegation series," he told this website.
"The French [pre-season] start on July 1, so I negotiated with the club that I can stay on for the promotion-relegation series.
"Hopefully we win and have a good game on Saturday, to ensure I can leave for France at peace, knowing I have done my part to help ensure the team gets back [into Super Rugby]."
Another stalwart heading to France after Saturday is lock Hendrik Roodt, who joined French Top 14 side Grenoble.
However, Janse van Rensburg feels in the past seven months the coaching staff, under the expert guidance of Ackermann, have built a solid foundation for the future.
"Coach Ackers [Johan Ackermann] and his team have done a great job to give these young players some experience through the Lions Challenge [games] and be a great mentor to the players," the prop said, adding: "Take a player like Jacques van Rooyen, who will step into my position at loosehead [prop] – he is a very good young player that will come through.
"There are also some good locks coming through [the system]," he said of players like Gavin Annandale, JJ Breet, Stephan Greeff, Hugo Kloppers, Franco Mostert – who can all back up Springbok Franco van der Merwe.
"I'm sure the coach won't mind getting one or two additional players, but he has done a great job so far with the bulk of the squad at his disposal.
"For most part they are all young guys and he can build a very competitive team."
Ackermann said he is not worried that the departure of some key players could be a distraction in the build-up to Saturday's big game against the Kings.
"They have been part of the team for so long and they are so professional that I don't have to question their commitment to the cause," Ackermann told this website.
"There is no doubt they will give their all for the Lions and will then move to their clubs abroad. I have no doubt they will put their bodies on the line on Saturday, before taking on their new ventures.
"I doubt very much it will be a distraction, they will fulfill their roles [in the team] as always."
Janse van Rensburg, born in the village of Prince Albert and educated at Oakdale Agricultural College, has played more than 100 games for the Lions – in the Super Rugby and Currie Cup competitions – while he also featured in a number of games for the Sharks this year while he was on loan to them.
He first joined the Lions in 2006 and established himself as a hard-working and powerful scrummager – so much so that he earned a call-up to the Springboks' 2012 year-end tour.
However, he never got to take to the field and as a result is a member of the Bok squad that must still wear his blazer over his arm, till he gets that deserved first full cap.
By Jan de Koning