‘I’m aware I’m not playing my best’
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.
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