‘I’m aware I’m not play­ing my best’

CityPress - - Sport - HEN­DRIK CRONJÉ sports@city­press.co.za

Lood de Jager knows bet­ter than any­one that he hasn’t played the kind of rugby this year that made him a World Cup star and South Africa’s Player of the Year in 2015.

“I’m not naive,” says the 23-yearold Spring­bok lock.

“I’m aware that I’m not play­ing as well as I can and if taken on merit I will cur­rently prob­a­bly not make the Boks’ start­ing line-up.

“Up un­til the Reds game I felt tired … My head is in the right place, but some­times my body sim­ply didn’t want to co­op­er­ate.

“Since the World Cup I’ve only had one week off and maybe that has had an in­flu­ence on my game.”

The for­mer Puk’s en­ergy lev­els and form is look­ing bet­ter since the Reds match.

“But then I got de­hy­drated in Bris­bane and Franco [Smith, the Chee­tahs coach] gave me time to re­cover and play against the Waratahs from the bench. I gave my best per­for­mance of the sea­son against the South­ern Kings and for the first time I felt as if my body was co­op­er­at­ing eas­ily.”

The for­mer pupil of Hoërskool Hugenote in Springs and his team­mates en­joyed a break over the past week be­fore the lock tri­als for the Spring­boks at New­lands next Satur­day. De Jager will then get the op­por­tu­nity to show why his form was tem­po­rary but his class per­ma­nent, against Pi­eter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etze­beth.

“One thing I can guar­an­tee you, when I put on a Bok jersey, it’s a whole dif­fer­ent story. I give my best for ev­ery jersey I play in, but the Spring­bok jersey is ex­tra spe­cial. I have, how­ever, also taken note of Pi­eter-Steph and the other locks’ good per­for­mance.”

It’s also not only De Jager who is hav­ing trou­ble with his form this sea­son, although he is still one of the bet­ter South African locks in the Su­per se­ries. The ma­jor­ity of the other World Cup play­ers are also strug­gling and up to just be­fore yes­ter­day’s derby at Lof­tus Vers­feld there was con­cern about Damian de Al­lende’s form. He also looked tired from time to time af­ter be­ing one of the world’s best-at­tack­ing in­side cen­tres last year. Even his Bok cen­tre part­ner, Jesse Kriel, has not been at his best yet.

De Jager’s form and that of the others, as well as in­juries to play­ers like Han­dré Pol­lard, points to the work­load of the coun­try’s top play­ers be­ing too heavy and it should be a huge con­cern for the South African Rugby Union.

PHOTO: JACO MARAIS PHOTO: STEVE HAAG / GALLO IM­AGES

Ju­nior Spring­boks skip­per Jeremy Ward has warned his team-mates against com­pla­cency when they face Ja­pan in their open­ing Un­der-20 Cham­pi­onship TIRED Lood de Jager has not been on top form since the rugby World Cup

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