Cape Town – Wandisile Simelane is honest enough to state that he hasn’t been at his best since moving to the Bulls, but despite his selection merry-go-round, he feels he will come out on top eventually.
Where a coach picks you is largely out of a player’s hands, but Simelane’s switches between outside centre, fullback and wing have made life difficult for him, with coach Jake White having explained that he feels being more versatile is the best path into the Springbok squad.
The tricky part with Simelane, though, is that he was once part of a Bok training squad as an outside centre, and after Lukhanyo Am, there is no one really knocking the door down for the No 13 jersey.
Japan-based Jesse Kriel has been in the national set-up for a long time, but hasn’t quite convinced as a starter, while Stormers star Ruhan Nel has been a consistent performer without getting a Bok spot.
Simelane was seen by many as the next Bok outside centre when he flourished at the Lions, and he was hoping to take the final step with his move to the Bulls.
That hasn’t happened, but the 25-year-old is happy to bide his time ahead of Saturday’s Currie Cup clash against the Lions at Loftus Versfeld (6.30pm kickoff).
“I am just working hard to get back to my full potential, my full form that I know I can reach. Whether that’s at fullback, wing or centre, right now, I just want to be on the field, playing as many minutes as I can to reach that form,” Simelane said on Thursday.
“I think I need to work on skills in both positions. I am not a complete 13 at all. There are many skills I need to work on, and I watch an inspiration like Lukhanyo Am – how many things he gets right in that 13 position – things I need to certainly work on.
“Then, I watch great fullbacks like Willie le Roux, Kurt-Lee (Arendse) who we have (at the Bulls) – they are very good at certain things at 15, which I sometimes don’t get right.
“There are definitely work-ons in both positions, so it gives me a lot of work and pressure to be able to juggle both positions. For example on Monday and Tuesday, working on 13 and the next two days on 15.
“Once I am on that form… Playing outside centre will always be my number-one position, but right now, I know I want to compete week-in, week-out at the highest level – I just need to work hard, get my form back, play a couple of 80-minute games and take it from there.
“There is method to the madness: I’m getting more comfortable playing at 15 every week, and centre will definitely come naturally to me – I can wake up any day and play outside centre. But 15 is a bit of work to be done there, and I must say, there are massive improvements from the first game I played at 15 last year.
“I know for a fact that I will get back to my best, and that will definitely be sooner rather than later.”
He insists that White has played open cards with him about the different positions. “There are a lot of comms, and there are things that I can’t chat about out there – but there is a lot of communication, and I know exactly where I stand in terms of the team and him. So, it’s just a matter of working hard, getting my form, and I 100 percent believe that things will come right,” Simelane said.
“Personally, I know for a fact that I haven’t reached the strides I would have loved to reach right now, but that’s sport – there are ups and downs. I must just carry on working hard and I know soon, I will reach my strides and form that I know I can possibly reach.
“So, frustrating as it is, I’ve got no one to blame but myself… Just carry on working hard, in the sense of putting in the hard work on the training field, and when I get my opportunity, ‘flippen’ give it my all.
“Also, not getting too frustrated in the sense of trying to force things… It’s more important for the team to do well and for me personally to do well within the structure of the team.
“Patience is just as important as working hard. You can’t just expect to play every weekend and for a coach to select you every weekend. You also need to bring your part and you need to deliver. I know that my form hasn’t been too great, but as soon as my form is up, it will show in team selection, where I will play more games at outside centre or 15.
“But I’m 100 percent sure I believe in the process, and once I hit my best again, it will definitely show in team selection. It’s very hard to stay patient, but patience is a virtue.”