PRETORIA - Bulls prop Lizo Gqoboka knows all about the hardships, troughs, self-doubt and pressure.
Coming from the bustling hamlet of Mount Frere in the Eastern Cape, Gqoboka only got introduced to rugby after his matric year while studying in Durban.
Gqoboka started at the bottom playing club rugby before testing out his rugby talent back in the Eastern Cape with the Southern Kings.
At the peak of the Kings financial woes and having not received a salary for months, Gqoboka made the tough decision to leave the comforts of his home province and what then seemed like a dream job to take up a once in a lifetime offer from the Bulls.
After all the hardship that Gqoboka had endured in his short career, the loosehead prop finally got the break he was looking for by playing for the Bulls and that opened up even more opportunities and he represented the SA ‘A’ side last year and traveled with the Springboks on their end of year tour.
It is with the same positive outlook that Gqoboka views the hardship that his beloved Bulls are going through in Super Rugby at the moment and believes that the pressure that has come with them losing four out of their five games will help grow the team and players.
Gqoboka says the team remains positive and are using the pressure to their advantage as they seek the one win that will turn their season around.
“Yes definitely it is good pressure. This is the kind of pressure that makes you grow as a person and as a player,” said Gqoboka from Tokyo.
“Being at the Bulls you know that the union have won this competition a few times and that brings pressure but it is something that I believe will help us grow as people and as players. We’ve done well in terms of staying positive and working hard with that pressure.”
While the results and to some extent their performances might suggest a team that is in disarray, Gqoboka believes that they are making progress by the game and should be an even better outfit when they play against the Sunwolves on Saturday morning.
“We’ve worked hard in the preseason there is no doubt we are fit it just comes down to execution of the plan. We’ve seen big progress from our first game in terms of our set-piece, defence and glimpses of what we can do on attack. There’s been progress even though we haven’t gotten the results that we wanted but we are growing, there is progress,” he added.
The Bulls problems seem to be mounting by the week, though, and if it is not an ailing scrum then they are being outmuscled at the breakdown and their defence is being breached with ease.
Gqoboka is confident that what has gone wrong for the Bulls is now a thing of the past and they will be working hard at focusing on the pockets of excellence that they showed for the better part of their defeat against the Chiefs last weekend in Hamilton.
“I think there’s been big improvements since the Stormers and we’ve been winning penalties,” Gqoboka said.
“There is progress in that area as well and in the set-pieces which are going well at the moment. We played against teams (last two games against Blues and Chiefs) that keep the ball in hand and apply pressure through keeping possession.
“We’ve been working hard in the week to apply pressure and try to keep the ball for longer. We create good opportunities but it is a matter of converting them into points.”
The Bulls will be facing a familiar opponent in the Sunwolves after playing against each other three weeks ago at Loftus Versfeld and as much as the Bulls were able to arm-wrestle themselves to victory, Gqoboka is wary of the danger they pose especially after their encouraging performance against the Stormers in Singapore.
“We don’t have a right to underestimate anyone. The Sunwolves they have the most line breaks in the competition so we are not underestimating them,” he said.
“They are a good side and almost got that win against the Stormers so we just want to go a hundred percent and execute our plan. We want to leave everything on the field, we want to express ourselves without fear but be responsible with it. We want to execute our plan and express our talent. We want growth and progress in the way that we play and we believe that will lead us to getting the win.”