CAPE TOWN – He obviously wanted the best for his Blitzbok teammate in 15-man rugby, but Ruhan Nel wasn’t expecting Dylan Sage to get his first Blue Bulls Currie Cup start against Western Province.
“It had to be against me!” Nel joked to himself ahead of the semi-final at Newlands, and what a battle royale it was.
Nel and Sage went toe-to-toe as direct opponents at outside centre in what turned out to be a 100-minute epic.
Both had their moments throughout, with Sage getting the glory of scoring the equalising try in the final minute of regulation time – although Manie Libbok sliced the touchline conversion.
“I knew the Bulls would come hard off the line, and they did throughout, until the 100th minute,” Nel said at WP’s training base in Bellville on Monday.
“I called him (Sage) during the week and wished him well. He was checking me and I was checking him! We tried to stop their momentum.
“The big challenge for us in the final (against the Sharks on Saturday) will be to stick to how we have played, what got us here.”
Nel also spoke about his personal achievements in his return to 15-man rugby, with the highlight of course being the call-up to the Springbok Rugby Championship squad.
He said his selection proved that new players can graduate from the Currie Cup into the Bok squad.
“The Currie Cup is definitely special, this year more than ever. People are saying the Currie Cup is dead and it has been going downhill,” Nel said.
“Looking back on my journey this year, this is where coach Rassie actually saw me and saw something special in me. It is a platform I was given, and through that, I have been making the best of that opportunity.
“I got an opportunity for higher honours. I could have easily been in the match-23 for the games against Australia or New Zealand – you never know what coach Rassie is thinking.
“It just goes to show that the Currie Cup is not down. People are watching, the right eyes are watching. I am a testament to that. You can be picked out of the Currie Cup.”
.@RuhanNel7 speaks about some of the @Blitzboks breathing exercises he introduced to @WP_RUGBY to help calm them down in the #CurrieCup semi-final against the Blue Bulls @IOLsport @IOL #WPvBUL #WPvSHA #CurrieCupFinal pic.twitter.com/2HfjtHR21c