VIDEO: Nortjé's blindside move a Jake White masterstroke
It may be a touch premature to draw the comparisons, but the parallels between the early years of World Rugby Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit and Bulls youngster Ruan Nortjé is uncanny.
Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White this week surprised many by naming the 22-year-old lock, Nortjé, as a blindside flank for Saturday’s Rainbow Cup decider against the Sharks in Durban.
White pointed to the similarities between the young Nortje and the path Du Toit’s career took many years ago.
Like Du Toit, Nortje is a very good line-out forward and started out as a lock.
However, Du Toit’s career really took off when he moved to blindside flank – where his great mobility and high work ethic were best utilised.
That is the same path foresees for the former Baby Bok, Nortjé.
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“He [Nortje] has an incredible workrate,” White said, adding: “He makes linebreaks and gets around the field.
“If we can double him up as a player that can cover lock and loose forward, it makes so much more sense for his career moving forward.”
“Look at Pieter-Steph du Toit, who was a lock that moved to No.7 and became the best player in the world.
“It is an exciting challenge for Ruan [Nortje], but I am sure he will adapt to it – especially with two Springboks at No.6 [Marco van Staden] and No.8 [Marcell Coetzee] playing alongside him [in Durban on Saturday].
“I definitely believe there’s a future for him in the No 7 jersey.”
Nortjé is not the only significant selection made by White this week.
The shift to flank opened a starting spot in the second row and Janko Swanepoel will get a chance to continue the remarkable growth he has shown under White’s tutelage.
“Janko’s done really well for us,” the Bulls boss told a virtual media briefing.
“He won the title with the [Bulls] Under-21 [team] last year and has trained with us for a long time now.
“He knows the line-outs and has been exposed to some pressure situations.
“He’s nice and fresh, having not played as much as the others.
“We’re hoping that energy rubs off on the rest.”