What ‘waterboy’ Lood can tell us about the Springboks’ culture

Lood de Jager of the Springboks during the South African national men's rugby team media conference at Southern Sun Pretoria on August 13, 2019 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

Lood de Jager of the Springboks during the South African national men's rugby team media conference at Southern Sun Pretoria on August 13, 2019 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

This seemingly menial task actually illustrates everything that makes many so optimistic about SA’s World Cup assault under Rassie Erasmus.

There’s no official record of this type of thing, but Lood de Jager probably broke a record in Salta last weekend against Argentina: rugby’s tallest “waterboy” ever.

“I think I watched a game once on TV where (All Blacks lock) Brodie Retallick also did water duty. So, it might be a bit of a tight contest,” the affable Springbok second rower, who is 0.01cm taller than his New Zealand counterpart at 2.05m, said with a chuckle on Tuesday.

“It was a good experience. I did it a bit for the Blue Bulls in last year’s Currie Cup.”

The irony is that being a “waterboy” isn’t quite as simple under national coach Rassie Erasmus and his deputies.

Springboks lock Lood de Jager on some unfinished business at Loftus.

Posted by The Citizen Sport on Tuesday, 13 August 2019

“Last weekend’s duty was on a whole other level! When you’re doing this for the Springboks there’s a lot of information coming into your ears. But it’s not like you can just repeat it, you have to keep it as sweet and short as possible. It’s not always the sweetest messages that come through on that earpiece,” said De Jager, struggling to contain his laughter.

“I’m joking, but it was a great experience. I’m glad we got a positive result.”

The 26-year-old’s storytelling though is a perfect example of the special culture being grown among the players.

Lood de Jager as Bulls ‘waterboy’ last year. (Photo by Carl Fourie/Gallo Images)

Taking ownership has become the Springboks’ mantra in 2019, yet that sense of accountability is done with a smile.

It’s an ideal balance.

De Jager noted how relaying instructions last week has, in fact, made it easier for him to once again slot in when South Africa meet the Pumas at Loftus on Saturday.

He hasn’t played since the win over the Wallabies at Ellis Park three weeks ago.

“My preparation has definitely been given a boost by playing ‘waterboy’ or ‘message carrier’. You need to know the plan to give clear instructions. It will put me in good stead,” said De Jager.

“I really must emphasise that we have healthy competition in this team, even if we’re keeping each other on our toes. We help each other. For example, when Franco (Mostert) and Eben (Etzebeth) start, I try to contribute to their prep as best as I can. The next week I might be playing and, to be honest, I would expect them to do the same.

“It’s a two-way thing and we’ve embraced it.”

Springboks assistant coach Matt Proudfoot on Scarra Ntubeni's call-up to the national squad.

Posted by The Citizen Sport on Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Four years and various injury setbacks wiser, De Jager is reluctant to channel some of the good memories of the previous World Cup in Britain, where – as a rookie – he starred and walked away with the honour of being SA’s player-of-the-year.

“That’s a very long time ago. I don’t know if I even have enough hands to count all the injuries, but I really just want to get on to the field and get some game-time. I’m feeling good again. It’s about evolving, hopefully when the World Cup comes along I’ll be at my best.”

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