JOHANNESBURG – When Rynhardt Elstadt left the Stormers and Western Province to join Toulouse as a ‘medical joker’, he never gave the Springboks a thought.
He was 26 and not really in the national plans.
But roll on to July 2019, and the now 29-year-old is on the verge of making his Bok debut against Australia in the opening Rugby Championship Test of the year at Ellis Park on Saturday.
It’s been quite the turnaround for the aggressive lock-cum-flank.
“It’s a great honour to make the Bok squad,” he said yesterday when he was named in the 23-man squad.
“When I left South Africa (in 2017), I never thought I’d still get a chance to play for the Boks.
“I went to France as a medical joker (as a stand-in for an injured player) and made it, and right now I’m coming off a great season.
“I guess one should never give up hoping.”
In the Cape, Elstadt played as a lock and blindside flank, but for Toulouse and for this weekend’s Test, he will wear the No 7 on his back.
He said too much was made of openside and blindside flank.
“Rugby is different in the north, so I’ve evolved as a player. I’ll still be the same physical guy I was... nothing’s changed in me as a person.
“But I’ve probably calmed down a bit. I also play more towards the ball now, rather than the man, so I’ve matured, and I want to show that on Saturday.
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“I suppose the big thing for an opensider is to secure the breakdown first, ensure the quick ball. But too much fuss is made of openside and blindside.”
He said he was excited about earning his first Test cap.
“I feel good, I’m super excited to wear the green and gold. But rugby is rugby; it’s run, pass and catch. I’m just going out there to do my best,” he explained.@jacq_west