Rollercoaster ride for Bok fan Jacques
It was only 10 months ago that Jacques Potgieter made a pledge with a Port Elizabeth friend to try and get to as many Springbok test matches as possible. When he said that he meant it to be as a supporter, but on Saturday he will be actually wearing the green and gold.
“It’s been a real rollercoaster ride for me,” admitted the newest Springbok cap after being named in the starting team for the final test against England at Nelson Mandela Stadium here at the weekend.
“This time last year I was playing first division Currie Cup rugby. I was sitting in the stands with my friend watching the Boks play against the All Blacks in the Tri-Nations (last August) when he said to me ‘Listen, we must come and try and watch as many Bok games as possible’. I said ‘Yes, yes, we must do that, we must make sure we get to watch them together when they come here next year'.
“It’s just an amazing feeling for me and it has all happened so quickly. I remember last year playing for Eastern Province in the Nations Cup and having the national anthem played before a game I was involved in for the first time. It was such a special feeling and I remember thinking that I wanted to become a Bok as quickly as possible.
“It was just a dream then, but now it is a reality and I can’t believe it. I can’t wait for Saturday’s game to start.”
Potgieter has had to journey away from the Eastern Cape to make his name. He is one of several young players who have starred for the Bulls during what was supposed to be a rebuilding season for them but which has turned into one where they are challenging strongly for Super Rugby honours. But while he now wears the blue (and pink) of the Bulls, he hasn’t forgotten his roots.
“I was born here and grew up here, my rugby started here, and playing in front of your family and friends is just awesome, you really can’t ask for more than that when it comes to your first match for your country.”
Potgieter said he first heard that he would be playing when he was called in for a one-on-one interview with coach Heyneke Meyer earlier in the week.
“Heyneke said that Willem was unlikely to play in the third test and he would like me to wear the No 7. I couldn’t believe what I had heard. I just sat there stunned. The butterflies started running through me from that moment. He told me to just go for it and to keep doing what I have been doing because he rates me.”
Potgieter was a surprise selection in the initial squad mainly because of the injury that kept him from playing for the past month of the Super Rugby season, but on Wednesday he said that he was carrying no ill effects and was probably even hungrier to play than he would have been had he not been sitting out.
“You know what the doctors are like. They are ultra-cautious and tend to take the conservative line. I thought I was ready to play about a month ago, but they kept on saying ‘Give it one more week, give it one more week’. Now I am ready to go for it. I am 120 percent and I don’t think I lack any sharpness because our training sessions are run according to how we want to play and assimilate match situations.”
Potgieter realises he will have big boots to fill as he replaces a man who was responsible for so much of the go forward the Boks were able to play off in the first two tests.
“I see it as a challenge to be as effective as he was. Willem got us across the gainline almost every time he touched the ball in Durban and Johannesburg. We are different players and I will bring something different, but my role will be the same – the main emphasis for me will be to bash us across the advantage line.
“Having my Bulls captain Pierre Spies alongside me will obviously help. He is a good leader and he brings calmness to those around him. We know each other well and understand each other’s game, so that should make it easier. Marcell Coetzee is also an awesome player who is much more than just a fetcher, he has allround skills. I think we are similar players in a way and I think we will work well together.
“At the moment I am just so excited about playing and after five weeks without playing any rugby I can’t wait to get stuck into the contact. I aim to tackle the first white jersey I see so I just hope the referee isn’t wearing white on Saturday,” he quipped.