No Bok blues for WP’s De Jongh
Juan de Jongh isn’t dwelling on his stop-start Test career and is channelling all his energy into Western Province’s Currie Cup title defence.
The star centre has 14 Springbok caps to his credit but has endured a frustrating international career in which he is yet to receive a sustained push since making a try-scoring debut against Wales in Cardiff in June 2010.
The 25-year-old started in the Springboks’ last two Tests of 2012 against Scotland and England but had precious little attacking opportunities and relinquished the green and gold No.13 jersey to Bulls midfielder JJ Engelbrecht this year.
He was part of the 30-man Springbok squad for the opening two rounds of the Rugby Championship but didn’t get any game time and was cut from the squad for the Australasian leg of the tournament.
De Jongh, however, remains upbeat and says he’s fully focused on the current Currie Cup campaign.
“It’s one of those things [being released from the Springbok squad] but that’s not where my focus is. My focus is always on the here and now and to make the most of every opportunity,” De Jongh said on Wednesday.
“It doesn’t matter what jersey I wear, it’s just great to be playing again and I’m enjoying my rugby. I’m just focused on playing good rugby for Province and hopefully then God will open some doors for me again.
“I’ve been going from strength to strength since I’ve come back from injury so I’m pleased with my form. There’s always room for improvement, though, and having players around me who are in good form will only help me to lift my game.”
De Jongh is no stranger to playing at Loftus Versfeld and said he’s relishing the challenge of taking on the Blue Bulls at their Pretoria fortress on Saturday.
“It’s always nice to play at Loftus and it’s always a massive challenge. The Bulls are known for their physicality and they’ll be confident after their win over the Cheetahs,” he said.
“We let ourselves down against them in the first round [when the teams drew 24-all at Newlands], so hopefully the weather is good and we can play some good rugby this weekend.”
De Jongh is one of the leaders in the new-look Western Province backline and feels they are growing in stature as a unit, with fellow Springbok Gio Aplon playing an integral role in their development.
“Gio is in good form and that inspires the rest of the backs and helps us to gel as a unit,” he said.
“Cheslin [Kolbe] is playing well for such a young age. I know what he’s going through and the obstacles he has in his debut season but he’s playing good rugby; he’s showing that he belongs and that he can go a long way.”
De Jongh said he’s also looking forward to continuing his midfield partnership with rising star Damian de Allende.
“Damian and I know each other well, so it’s great to play alongside him again. I know what to expect from him when he has the ball and on defence. The Bulls have good centres so it’s important that we click on the day.”
De Jongh added that too much is being made of Western Province’s inability to secure a four-try bonus point.
“I don’t get all the hype behind the four tries. It’s not something we’re focus on. We’re unbeaten and that’s what’s important. The games and opportunities will come to score four tries and when they do it’ll be a bonus.”
By Quintin van Jaarsveld