“It is every player’s dream to become a Springbok, but the pinnacle is to play at a World Cup and to win it. Watching the Boks motivates me to work harder on the small stuff that I lack, so to get there one day,” Van Wyk said, while speaking exclusively to Independent Media last week.
The Lions centre, alongside his teammates, are in the thick of pre-season as they prepare for the upcoming United Rugby Championship, which starts in a fortnight; and Van Wyk is hoping to replicate his previous early-season performances which had many tongues wagging.
The Hoerskool Monument alum had an excellent start in his debut URC campaign, only for injury to stifle his form and confidence. A knock to the knee in January at the Sportsground against Connacht ended his season prematurely and resulted in some deep introspection.
“I have been through a rough patch with my knee, but I am in a good space mentally now. Physically, I am also in a good space, and I am ready to build on where we ended last season,” he said.
“Last week, I was still doing noncontact training. Me and a few other guys are integrating into full-contact training this week.
“(The URC) was a big, big learning curve for me as a young player. I started very well, and my confidence was high. I had a knock in my confidence to the middle of the season and just as I learned how to regain confidence in the system, I got my injury.
“It was bad for me. I was very negative when I got the injury because I felt good again. I felt confident and I tried to express myself, and then I got set back.”
Van Wyk put in some blockbuster performances for the Lions in his maiden season, with pundits and supporters singing his praises. There were some that even went as far as to argue that Van Wyk should be fasttracked into the Bok setup for the current World Cup.
In retrospect, and without the hindsight of the meniscus tear he suffered, it is easy to understand why. Van Wyk showed a willingness in attack, bumping off defenders and busting tackles, while doing so with a healthy appreciation of the laws.
Equally, he worked hard in defence, putting in some scathing tackles and tracking back with commitment. It earned him a SA A call-up last year for matches against Munster and Bristol Bears, which he revealed at the time had only improved him as a player.
Even so, Van Wyk will be the first to admit that there is still much work to do to make him a complete player.
“I need to focus on what makes me a good rugby player and work on what lacks in my game,” Van Wyk said.
“I want to start for the Lions again and give my all for them
… My dream is still to become a Springbok, and that will never go away, but first I want to have a big impact on the season for the Lions.
“I think there are a whole list of things that I must improve. It is not just anyone who becomes a Bok.
“I think in my attacking game, I will have to improve my ability to scan better and communicate better; and in identifying space and playing into that space with my distribution.”
The Lions ended last season in a disappointing ninth, missing the lucrative playoffs. They will start the URC on October 21 at Ellis Park against the Stormers, and will also compete in the second tier Challenge Cup. It is clear to all, including Van Wyk, what the objectives will be for the new campaign.
“We want to make the playoffs. We want to win the competition
... There is a positive vibe in the team and as we get closer to the competition, and the guys are looking forward to the season,” Van Wyk said.