VIDEO: 'It shows on the pitch' - New playmaker on competition in Bulls camp
SPOTLIGHT: The Bulls’ Jaco van der Walt is one of a handful of very talented flyhalves in Pretoria and says the competition amongst them helps him grow as a player.
Van der Walt scored 16 points in the win over Connacht at Loftus over the weekend. He earned a starting berth after Johan Goosen, the first choice at No.10, got injured against Edinburgh.
Edinburgh is a team Van der Walt knows all too well as he spent five years there before joining the Bulls this year.
Prior to joining the Scottish outfit in 2017, he started his career at the Lions in 2014 and represented the Johannesburg-based outfit in the Currie Cup and Super Rugby competitions.
Van der Walt was part of the Lions squad which finished as runners-up to the Hurricanes in the 2016 Super Rugby Final.
After moving to Edinburgh he quickly became a fans’ favourite, scoring his first try for them in their Challenge Cup triumph over Stade Francais in December 2017, before enjoying a breakout season in 2018/19, picking up the Pro14 Golden Boot in that same campaign.
His impressive form at club level led to a Scotland Test debut against Ireland in December 2020, the first of four caps for his adopted country.
After his man-of-the-match performance over the weekend, Van der Walt sat down with local media to talk about his time at the Bulls thus far and having to compete with the likes of Chris Smith and Goosen.
“There is a lot of depth in the squad and it makes a difference as a player because you need to work a little harder than normal. And I think you need that competition amongst each other. Myself, Chris and Goose get along very well and we help each other in certain aspects of the game,” Van der Walt said.
“With that, you know you can grow as a player.
“It’s been good. The vibe at the Bulls has been brilliant. At the end of the day, if you get along with all the boys, it shows on the pitch.
Hopefully, we can get more game time. The season is long, so there will be rotation. So every opportunity you get you just need to use it.”
Prompted to speak about the presence of Springbok Willie le Roux in the backline, the flyhalf spoke candidly about the effect Le Roux has on players around him.
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“It made a massive difference on the weekend. Willie is a very experienced player and on the weekend his chat was amazing. I think it made all the boys next to us calm and he is also calm himself.
“That made a massive difference. Especially with decision-making as well, it helped a lot,” the flyhalf said.
And while he knows the conditions overseas very well, he agreed that South African teams should use their local matches to record victories.
“On the weekend the weather on this side made a massive difference. Home games are the most important games to win.
“South African teams need to use the opportunity when they play at home.”
The Bulls host the Sharks at home this weekend.