Lizo Gqoboka has not only been one of the star performers for the Bulls, but has featured prominently on the Springbok radar.
The Bulls prop has been playing like a man possessed since his return from a long injury layoff, but has certainly made up for lost time since the start of the season.
Gqoboka and Bok tighthead Trevor Nyakane have formed a formidable front-row combination.
Over the weekend Gqoboka highlighted his class, giving renowned Australian prop Sekope Kepu a hard time in the scrum in the Bulls’ win over the Waratahs.
But Gqoboka credits an eight-man effort for the Bulls’ turnaround in the set piece.
“It is an eight-man scrum; it is not only a front-row or tight five everyone is excited about the scrums, and I think that makes the difference this year,” Gqoboka said.
Gqoboka heaped praise on guru Daan Human, who has been instrumental in giving the Bulls scrum a bit of bite.
“Coach Daan is doing well in holding everyone accountable where it is not just a front-row thing,” Gqoboka said.
“He has a good system where he holds everyone accountable, so I really enjoy working with him.”
Gqoboka’s performances this season has rugby pundits scratching their heads about where Bok coach Rassie Erasmus will find space for the burly prop in his World Cup plans.
Erasmus is likely to only take two loosehead props to Japan for the global showpiece with regular starters and stalwart Tendai Mtawarira and Steven Kitshoff being ahead of Gqoboka on the pecking order.
Bulls coach Pote Human may be biased, but would select both Nyakane and Gqoboka if he was the Bok mentor.
“It is a pleasure to have them in the squad, both of them at this stage are world class, I’m not the Springbok coach so I can’t pick them for South Africa, but they won’t let the Boks down,” Human said.
Gqoboka has not only excelled in the engine room, but has made a few storming runs with the ball in hand this season.
The pressure on the modern-day loosehead prop seems to be piling up as they do not only pack down in the scrum or lift in the line outs, but also fulfil the role as an extra loose forward.
“Nowadays you have to view yourself as an extra loose forward, you cannot just scrum and walk so it is a big focus,” Gqoboka said.
“I try to improve myself in every area of the game.”
But a prop’s worth will ultimately depend on how well he does at scrum time, and they have to be prepared for the onslaught on game day.
“We do video analysis, I stared at a computer for a whole week, I know he is a quality tighthead,” Gqoboka said about his preparations for Kepu.
“I don’t know how they did things back in the day, but it is professional now and you have to know your opposition.
If Gqoboka continues his rise, he will soon be doing his analysis as a regular selection in the Bok jersey.@ockertde