Lood de Jager’s short career has had so many ups and downs that he feels like a grizzled veteran.
The Springbok is indeed the most experienced lock in the Bulls’ Super Rugby squad but he’s by no means the wisest.
In fact, at 25, there’s a feeling that De Jager hasn’t quite yet received the guidance that will elevate him from a workhorse at international level to world-class.
That’s bound to change under John Mitchell.
And, by all accounts, he’s really eager to learn.
“Lood’s come in with great enthusiasm,” Mitchell said on Thursday as the Bulls wrap up prep for their warm-up against the Stormers in Wellington on Saturday.
“He’s working hard, communicating effectively. I think he’s really enjoying the learning environment that we’re creating here. We really try to involve all the players and tell them of the game we’re going to play.”
De Jager has been so eager that he’s set to be unleashed this weekend, arguably a week earlier than planned.
Mitchell has continually maintained that most of his Springboks will only be in contention for next week’s hit-out against the Jaguares but the injury to rookie Aston Fortuin has forced him to change his plans slightly.
“We’re going to need everyone,” said the Bulls mentor.
“I keep saying to guys who have perceptions about where they sit in the pecking order in terms of experience and playing time, just be ready. You never know when you’re needed.”
But Mitchell also hinted that De Jager might be the man to spearhead the line-out when the stakes are at their highest.
“Our No 5 lock will probably have to play 80 minutes. It’s a critical calling position from a line-out perspective,” he said.
“He loves that kind of stuff.”