Johannesburg — Tyler Bocks might not yet be a household name amongst rugby enthusiasts, but that won’t matter to the 21-year-old. After all, he has time on his side.
The Lions player made his senior debut as a professional earlier this year against the Western Province in the Currie Cup, and has since played five more games for the team in that tournament, racking up 225 minutes of game time. The days as a senior rugby player are young then, and the road long.
Nevertheless, there should be a measure of excitement around the former Baby Bok as he begins his rugby career in earnest.
“There is lots to learn,” said Bocks in an interview with Independent Media last week.
“We talk about the perfect player and we try to be that perfect player by making no mistakes, not that such a thing exists … The most that I have learnt from this Currie Cup is that the step up that you have to make from junior rugby to professional rugby is huge. Everyone is on the same level, and it only depends on who works harder at the end of the day.
“I’m still learning – you're never good enough to learn. It is about being able to know what to do at the right time, where to be on the field – stuff like that, I am learning constantly every day."
As a new player in the fold, Bocks still has a long way to go, and he is using this time wisely by soaking up the wisdom and knowledge of those around him at the Lions’ Doornfontein base.
Said Bocks: “We train as a whole group, so you learn every day from the more experienced players in the camp, like Burger (Odendaal).
“He is a very good player and very experienced. The way he communicates and understands the game; I have learnt a lot from him. Manuel Rass also as well as a good friend of mine, (former Baby Bok and Lions teammate) Henco van Wyk.
“So, ja, we all try to help each other in our own ways. Some guy is maybe blessed with something else that you don’t have, so you feed from him. For me, just seeing how professional they are and what you need to do to become a professional, is great.
Bocks also revealed the player that has helped him the most transitioning from the junior ranks to senior rugby, saying: “Ex-player Gianni Lombard (who now plays in Japan) – I learnt a lot from him and I am very close to him.
"He is the one who took me under his wing when I came to the Lions and he helped me a lot with how I need to fit into certain structures.”
With skipper Odendaal leaving the union at the end of the season to play for Wasps, there is a gap developing for Bocks, who states emphatically that his position is inside-centre, to find himself in the selection mix much more often when the next season kicks off in a few months’ time.
That includes possibly playing in the United Rugby Championship; the second tier European Challenge Cup – which the Lions will be participating in having missed qualification for the Champions Cup; and most certainly the Currie Cup, if he stays fit.
Speaking of the Currie Cup, the winless but improving Lions will be in action this weekend in the Jukskei Derby when they travel to the table-topping Bulls on Saturday (kick-off 5pm).