Jan: The soul of both Spring­boks and Bulls

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - VATA NGOBENI

OH! HOW true was that old TV ad­vert about Su­per Rugby with its catchy tune: “Jan, Jan, Jan is die soul van die span.”

Spring­bok and Bulls cen­tre Jan Ser­fontein is prov­ing to be the soul of both the na­tional side and his Su­per Rugby fran­chise with his per­for­mances of late.

Ser­fontein played a piv­otal role for the Spring­boks in their three­nil series white­wash against France re­cently. He continued with his good form by help­ing guide the Bulls to a win against the Sharks in Dur­ban last Fri­day.

How­ever, Ser­fontein doesn’t want to take the credit for him­self and in­stead be­lieves the new en­vi­ron­ment at the Spring­boks and now the Bulls have been im­por­tant in him find­ing the form that once made him the best ju­nior player in world rugby.

“It was a good team per­for­mance against the Sharks. On a per­sonal level I am in good form an­dit feels as if a lot of things are go­ing right for me. It is about be­ing at the right place at the right time and I’m en­joy­ing it at the mo­ment,” said Ser­fontein af­ter Bulls train­ing at Lof­tus Vers­feld yes­ter­day.

“It’s def­i­nitely the change in en­vi­ron­ment and get­ting the en­joy­ment back. It all starts with the team, if the team does bet­ter then the in­di­vid­u­als will do bet­ter and that is what has hap­pened at the Boks and in our game against the Sharks.”

An­other con­tribut­ing fac­tor to Ser­fontein’s re­turn to form has been the de­ci­sions taken by Spring­bok coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee WELLING­TON: The Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions need to “switch off” for a few days to heal bod­ies bat­tered from their pun­ish­ing tour but there is no dan­ger of play­ers los­ing their edge ahead of Satur­day’s series de­cider against the All Blacks, said Lions as­sis­tant coach Gra­ham Rown­tree.

While the All Blacks went straight to Auck­land to pre­pare for the third Test at Eden Park, the tourists trav­elled south from Welling­ton to New Zealand’s top win­ter sports des­ti­na­tion around Queen­stown for two days’ rest and re­lax­ation.

The Lions sent the three-Test series to a de­cider af­ter beat­ing the All Blacks 24-21 at Welling­ton Re­gional Sta­dium this past week­end and Rown­tree said the side had to phys­i­cally re­cover in or­der to with­stand and Bulls coach Nol­lis Marais to play him at his nat­u­ral po­si­tion at in­side cen­tre in­stead of out wide into the num­ber 13 jersey.

Ser­fontein says the move back to num­ber 12 and play­ing along­side Bulls team­mate Jesse Kriel at the Spring­boks and an in-form El­ton Jan­tjies at fly­half has reignited his con­fi­dence.

“It is good to be back in my pre­ferred po­si­tion. It has helped to build a part­ner­ship with Jesse and with El­ton at the Boks. I started to re­mem­ber and be­lieve in my own abil­i­ties and af­ter a string of good games my con­fi­dence also re­turned, mak­ing the com­ing storm. “They need to switch off,” Rown­tree, told re­porters in Welling­ton be­fore they left. “We have done it the last few Lions series, to have a few days off af­ter the sec­ond Test be­cause they are tired. We have worked them hard.” Rown­tree, a no-non­sense loose­head prop in his play­ing days whose Eng­land ca­reer ended in 2006 af­ter 54 caps, said there was no dan­ger of the play­ers be­ing un­able to raise the in­ten­sity level again for the de­cider. Vic­tory at Eden Park would see them join the 1971 team as the only Lions side to win a Test series in New Zealand. “There is a series in the bal­ance. How many of these guys have won a Lions series in New me be­lieve I can still play at the high­est level. It is re­ally nice to be en­joy­ing my rugby again,” added Ser­fontein.

He says the Bok en­vi­ron­ment is con­ducive to play­ers ex­press­ing them­selves and not fear­ing to make er­rors.

“The coaches cre­ated an en­vi­ron­ment for us where we can ex­press our­selves and it was an easy and sim­ple game-plan. It was all about hard work and ef­fort and not so much about mak­ing mis­takes. All of that put to­gether and the en­joy­ment with all the guys on the field and play­ing for the Spring­boks was a great Zealand?” he said.

“What ex­cites the guys is that there is more to come in our game. We’ve got the best rugby play­ers in the home na­tions here and they’ve had a taste of it.

“The first Test they were down, but we got a re­ac­tion and they’ve got a taste now, so the feel­ing is ‘right, let’s get this done. Let’s raise our game again’.”

Af­ter los­ing the first test at Eden Park 30-15 last month, the Lions ended the All Blacks’ 47-match, eight-year un­beaten streak at home on Satur­day and Rown­tree ex­pects a “mas­sive re­ac­tion” from the world cham­pi­ons.

“They don’t make many mis­takes,” he added. “They will be hurt­ing, as we were af­ter last week, so we’re ex­pect­ing a re­ac­tion go­ing into the game. They don’t lose there very of­ten, do they? But we ... want to get this done. We kept our­selves alive and now head into a de­cider. So, the lads are aware of where we need.” – Reuters for­mula to per­form.”

The 24-year-old Ser­fontein is ea­ger to fin­ish off his time at the Bulls with two more pow­er­ful per­for­mances be­fore he leaves for France where he has signed to con­tinue his game.

“It was one of my goals this year to leave Lof­tus on a high note so I will def­i­nitely be go­ing out to play very well in the next two games. In the end it is about the team do­ing well and the bet­ter the team does, the bet­ter it is for the in­di­vid­u­als in the team as well.

“To have a cou­ple of good games in a row def­i­nitely helps with self-con­fi­dence. If I can build on my per­for­mances and the Bulls build on the win against the Sharks then it will look good for us when we face the Kings and Storm­ers.”

Mean­while, the Bulls have suf­fered more in­jury set­backs with flank Roelof Smit be­ing ruled out for up to two months due to a knee in­jury in the Su­per­Sport Rugby Chal­lenge quar­ter­fi­nals .

Flank Re­naldo Bothma will miss the re­main­der of the Su­per Rugby sea­son af­ter frac­tur­ing his fore­arm against the Sharks, while fly­half Tony Jan­tjies is doubt­ful for this week­end af­ter sus­tain­ing a rib in­jury

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