Cape Town - Juan de Jongh is a happy-go-lucky kind of guy.
He’s the type of guy who likes to pull a prank or two and he isn’t shy to make a fool of himself on the social networks.
He plays his rugby with a similar sort of enthusiasm, with his ability to step through a gap with pace and celebrating crucial tries with a dance move or two his trademarks.
However, there hasn’t been a lot to smile about for the Wellington-born centre over the last few days after he was left out of Heyneke Meyer’s Springbok squad for the Rugby Championship.
But that smile made a timely return to De Jongh’s face on a gloomy and rainy afternoon at the Western Province’s High Performance Centre in Bellville when Western Province coach Allister Coetzee announced that he will lead the side in this season’s Currie Cup competition.
De Jongh admitted on Monday that he was disappointed not to make the Springbok squad, but have now “switched my energies” to make a success of his new job.
“Obviously it was in the back of my mind and I was disappointed. But since the Bok team has been out, I got over it. I have now switched my energies and I don’t want to focus on things that are beyond my control,” De Jongh told reporters on Monday.
“What I have on my plate now is the WP captaincy and I know there comes a lot of responsibility with that. I must make sure that there is a good team culture and that the boys are happy off the field, so that it carries over onto the field.
“But I don’t want to look too far ahead. I’m just focusing on Friday night at this point.”
Friday night’s tournament opener against the Eastern Province Kings will certainly be a tough start for De Jongh, who will captain a senior side for the first time in his career.
Although the butterflies in his stomach aren’t flying in the same formation ahead of the clash, the centre is looking forward to the challenge.
He is also looking forward to bringing his own personality to the captaincy, which is about having fun, but also knowing when to put your shoulder to the wheel.
“I’m about fun and enjoyment, and to make sure that guys are in a comfortable space,” he said. “But saying that, you also have to be serious and be in a focused mindset in terms of enjoyment.
“Most of the guys enjoy their rugby when they are happy, and they are in a good environment when they have fun. I want us to be more relaxed, but also switched on and know that we have a big job ahead.”
Coetzee is hoping that De Jongh will also be successful in his primary role of cutting the line and scoring tries.
The WP coach hinted that he wants to solely use De Jongh at outside centre during the Currie Cup this season after he played the last few matches for the Stormers in the No 12 jersey.
It seems Michael van der Spuy is the favourite to get the nod at inside centre against the Kings, while the fleet-footed Cheslin Kolbe is likely to start at fullback because of the absence of Jaco Taute, who is on compassionate leave following the death of his mother.
“Juan gets a lot of respect amongst his peers,” Coetzee said on Monday.
“He is an experienced player and he is a Springbok. He understands the culture of this province very well and I see him as being a man who is capable leader who leads by example.
“One of the criteria to appoint a captain is that he must be sure of his place in the team. Juan has played 12 for a season and he has played 13. What’s best for our team is that he remains at 13 at this point in time.
“We have got a few other centres like Michael van der Spuy, who is an out-and-out 12. You would like to use him at 12 with his left foot. With Cheslin Kolbe that can feature at 15, we might also look at Jaco Taute as a possible 12 going forward. Also Pat Howard,” Coetzee added.”
However, the big talking point ahead of Friday night’s match will be the return of Demetri Catrakilis at flyhalf.
The Stormers’ No 1 pivot Kurt Coleman is struggling to shake off a leg injury he sustained during their last Super Rugby game of the season against the Sharks, and Coetzee hinted that the flyhalf might only feature again next week against the Blue Bulls at Newlands.