Jaco enjoying life in the Cape
He has known, useful utility value but fullback is the firm focus of Stormers loan signing for 2013 Jaco Taute.
The Springbok, who almost seems a stalwart of first-class rugby because he was playing at that level so young for the Lions (the team to which he is still contracted) only turns 22 in March, and if he gets pigeon-holed as a No 15 for the Cape outfit that suits him just fine.
“I’ve trained fairly exclusively as fullback in early-season preparations and I must say I’m mad about it,” he confirmed at a media briefing at the squad’s training camp in Hermanus on Wednesday.
“It is great to potentially be part of a back three that includes world-class players like Bryan (Habana) and Gio (Aplon) - give either of them half a chance and they’ll be over the try-line plenty of times. I hope it will be a very dangerous (combination).”
Certainly coach Allister Coetzee has made all the right noises, in terms of Taute’s wishes, by indicating that he will overwhelmingly be viewed as a compelling candidate for the last line of defence.
At 1.90m and 98kg, he offers a timely, perhaps necessary element of height to a Stormers wings-and-fullbacks division that has sometimes lacked that advantage.
“It’s felt like a very, very good shift for me so far. They’re a top team - it’s a big challenge for me, seeing as they’ve done so well over the last couple of years; this is not just a team you can walk into and expect to (get a starting berth).
“I see myself as an attacking player and I believe that will fit in with the brand of play expected at Newlands.”
Asked about his Springbok blooding in midfield last year, and how this might affect his further test aspirations considering his renewed desire to settle in the last line of defence, he replied diplomatically: “You will never try to dictate where you want to play if you have the honour of being chosen for the Springboks.
“But I came down here primarily because I wanted to be seen as a fullback - I do consider it my first-choice position.”
How is the Springs-born player adapting to softer pitches and the ball not travelling as far through the air?
“Well, it’s been lovely having so much more oxygen here! Running is much easier; I’m not used to that.
“Me and Elton (Jantjies) have already been working on our kicking, because it will be different circumstances; the wind and (slower pitches) ... but those are uncontrollables, and you just have to get used to them and adapt to them quickly.
“I’ve been loving the summer weather in Cape Town. It’s very different; I’ve been a Jo’burg boy my whole life but I’ve been really liking it - the people are very friendly and welcoming too. I haven’t been homesick.
“I’m studying at the same time - a B.Comm finance, entering third year - and living in Stellenbosch for the moment. You have to juggle your responsibilities, try to find time, but I’m aware that your rugby career may only last 10 years!”
Taute said he was fortunate not to be carrying any niggles from last season into 2013.
“No, I feel very fresh, after my shoulder op last year, at the end of Super Rugby. It helped to have a bit of a rest.
“I’ve had a very good pre-season, I can’t wait to get on the field. Pre-season seems to be dragging out a bit now ...”