Cape Town — It’s hard to believe that Juan de Jongh will be turning 35 in a few weeks’ time.
The side-stepping centre from Wellington made his senior Western Province debut as a teenager as far back as 2009, and hit the big time with a sensational Super Rugby campaign for the Stormers in 2010 – with the highlight being a brilliant try against the Waratahs in the semi-final.
He was so good that he made his Springbok bow in the same year against Wales in Cardiff, and he went on to earn 19 Test caps up to 2016.
In that time he also won a few Currie Cup titles with Province, with the most memorable being the 2012 triumph over the Sharks at Kings Park, where he again scored a trademark solo try and pulled out the famous ‘Gangnam Style’ dance.
Now it’s 11 years later, and the veteran centre is gearing up for another trip to Durban, with WP taking on the Sharks on Sunday (2pm kickoff).
Will we see that special dance again if he scores a try? “I’m too old now for Gangnam Style – it’s been more than a decade! Lower back is too tight,” De Jongh said.
“Very good memories (of the 2012 final) ... I will remember those for a very long time, as it was the first time in 11 years that we brought the Currie Cup home. So, special memories were made in the Shark Tank in Durban, but that’s history. We are focusing on Sunday 2pm, and we must get the youngsters up to speed and help them become famous.
“It is tunnel vision … we don’t want to look too far into the future. But when you get to my age, you take it game by game, day by day and training by training. You have to put in the hard work to maintain that longevity, and our culture is in a good place at WP and the Stormers, and we want to keep it like that.
“We have to keep sharp to tackle all three competitions, and that is what I experienced in the English Premiership as well – you need a squad of 45 to be successful. We want to make new memories for the guys trying to win their first Currie Cup as well.”
That is De Jongh’s role these days, having returned to Cape Town from English club Wasps in 2021 – to bring through the next generation of midfielders.
There is already a promising crop emerging, such as Junior Springbok Suleiman Hartzenberg and Bruce Sherwood, who was still on school at Bishops last year.
That is why De Jongh couldn’t hide his delight about WP’s 41-33 triumph over the Bulls at Loftus last week, which was preceded by a 44-28 win over the Lions at Ellis Park.
“Any win at Loftus is very big, and I’ve been fortunate to have won a few games there against big teams and big names. But last weekend was very special. Technically, we were playing against their URC (United Rugby Championship) team, but we have the buy-in and camaraderie from the juniors and seniors in the squad – there are no egos in this team, and the guys work together to achieve those goals,” De Jongh said.
“You saw in both games that the standards were set, and the Stormers also have big standards, so we try to do that here too in the WP team, union and brand – playing the same type of rugby and being on the same page, instead of being individuals.”
De Jongh will still feature in the odd game for the Stormers going forward, which is why the WP team need to keep going in order for the players to be at their best if they are required in the URC or Champions Cup.
The Sharks will be eager to hit back from last week’s 48-40 loss to Griquas in Kimberley, although coach Joey Mongalo won’t be able to call on any URC players as the senior side are in Wales to take on Scarlets this weekend.
But De Jongh is still expecting a tough battle on Sunday.
“The Sharks have a good team, and got a good result in their first game. They lost last week, but they will be dangerous and would want to bounce back. Our first three games are away, and we have won the first two,” he said.
“They are missing URC players, but we will focus on ourselves and keep working on our combinations. Hopefully the weather conditions are good to play some running rugby.”