CAPE TOWN - JD Schickerling breaking his neck three years ago is still one of the most prevalent things you find on the news feed whenever you punch the Western Province lock’s name into any online search engine.
That shouldn’t be the case. Everything that the 22-year-old has done after recovering from that near-disastrous injury he suffered while playing in an Under-21 game for WP against the Blue Bulls in 2014 should be what gets the most hits. And if you’ve seen the 2.03 metre-tall second-row forward doing his thing for Province this season, you’d know why.
Schickerling is going to be a key presence on the field when Province take on the Sharks in the Currie Cup final - after all, it’s the Sharks, and putting them under pressure at the set-piece is going to be crucial this weekend.
Schickerling - born in Calvinia - knows his way around the lineouts, but it’s what he offers in general play that can make him a game-changer on Saturday. He’s been massive in WP’s Currie Cup title chase with his big carries, his dominant hits and, of course, that work-rate. It’s something that we saw again in WP’s 19-5 semi-final win over the Golden Lions at Newlands - Schickerling was immense.
He has certainly come a long way since being 2mm away from being paralysed by that 2014 injury, and what makes his ongoing rise even more remarkable, is how fearless he’s looked whenever he’s pulled on the blue-and-white jersey.
If you look at the physicality with which he goes into contact, you’d never say that he’s a player who’s returned from a neck injury. And the fact that he’s “just enjoying” rugby is probably one of the main reasons for his impressive performances.
“The major thing for me was that I just started to focus on myself and on the game. I’m just enjoying the game,” Schickerling said. “It’s been really simple. I’ve just tried to improve in every area of my game. I’m just really enjoying my rugby now. And I want to be physical.”
Schickerling continues to tick the physicality box, and after leaving the field against the Lions, the mobile lock says he’ll be just fine for the final.
“I had a bit of bone bruising on the ankle and a slight grade one because of an old injury,” Schickerling said.
On Saturday, he will also go up against Sharks skipper Ruan Botha, and while the WP lock has a lot of respect for Botha, Schickerling isn’t planning on holding anything back when it comes to putting the Durban side under pressure at set-piece time.
“They’ll bring it physically, they’ve got a strong pack. If we can try and dominate set piece and get more front-foot ball, we’ll be okay. We should just put them under pressure. Ruan Botha had a very good season as well. He is very good in the lineouts and everything - I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”
Did you know?
This season, Schickerling has made 105 carries (and 624 metres - an average of six metres per run), 141 tackles and missed only eight (a 95% tackle completion rate), and he’s made the most dominant hits this season with a total of 39.