CAPE TOWN – Springbok lock Lood de Jager is raring to go after a lengthy injury lay-off, which saw him miss all 10 of the Springboks’ Test matches so far this year.
The big second rower, who plays for the Vodacom Bulls, sustained a torn pectoral muscle in May when he played for the Pretoria-based franchise in a home Vodacom Super Rugby fixture against fellow South African team the Cell C Sharks.
De Jager underwent an operation to repair the damage on 18 May and as a result of the injury and the extensive rehabilitation period that followed, he was forced to miss the remainder of his team’s Vodacom Super Rugby fixtures.
The SA Rugby Player of the Year in 2015 also missed the Springboks’ Castle Lager Incoming Series triumph at home over England, and also prevented him from playing any part in the six Castle Lager Rugby Championship matches that followed.
Rassie Erasmus’ Springbok side finished second in the southern hemisphere competition, behind New Zealand, after two epic encounters against the Kiwis, which included a courageous win in Wellington, a heartbreaking last-minute loss to the All Blacks in Pretoria and home victories over Argentina and Australia.
Now fully recovered, the big lock joined the Springbok training group earlier this week in Stellenbosch after Erasmus named him in the preliminary squad.
De Jager is keen to add to his 36 Test caps for South Africa and said he loves every moment of being back in the Springbok setup.
“Awesome,” he beamed broadly when asked to describe how he felt to be back in the Springbok environment.
“I must say it was a very weird feeling sitting at home watching the guys play in the June series and in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship.
“It was great to see the guys displaying so much courage to fight back every time to eventually win those two Tests and clinching that series against England.
“Then, in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship, you could see Rassie was trying a few combinations but once the guys managed to hit their stride, it was just fantastic to watch them in those two matches against the All Blacks and that win over the Wallabies.”
De Jager bolsters the outstanding Springbok second row stocks even further. In scorching Stellenbosch, he joined the likes of Eben Etzebeth, RG Snyman and Pieter-Steph du Toit (lock and flank) at the training camp, where the Boks have been sweating it out on the field and in the gym since Monday.
“I reckon it’s great for us as locks and obviously the Springboks that we have such quality second rowers in the squad,” said De Jager.
“The competition amongst us are fantastic and that’s what you want as a player, it is something that spurs you on so that you always give it your best.”
African News Agency (ANA)