JOHANNESBURG - Bulls wing Johnny Kotze reckons nothing much has changed about him since coming to the Bulls from the Stormers last year. But the truth of the matter is that a lot has changed.
From overcoming his injuries and moving from a “middle of the road” player to being one of the most important cogs in the Bulls revival in Super Rugby this year, Kotze is taking the sudden fame and recognition all in his stride.
It was that measured stride that has seen Kotze quietly build himself up along with his teammates to being one of the teams that is now the most watched after a string of seasons where the Bulls have underperformed.
And it will be with the same humility, knowing that nothing is achieved yet and that their best is yet to come that Kotze and the Bulls will approach their next assignment against the Queensland Reds in Brisbane on Saturday.
“Yeah I struggled with a few injuries, it was a bit of a setback and I kept my head, kept working towards my goals and strengths and try to never give up,” said the 25-year-old Kotze who was born and grew up in Carltonville.
“They (Reds) are obviously a good outfit, a good competitor and always strong. I think that we can’t underestimate them and we must go out there and do our best.”
The new thinking at the Bulls and wanting to emulate the team that won Super Rugby three times between 2007 and 2010 may very much be the driving force behind the Bulls awakening from the dead, but the talk in the team is about them making the best out of the opportunities ahead of them under the tutelage of coach John Mitchell.
While the emotions and optimism that gripped the Bulls faithful after their season opening win against the Hurricanes could have easily led them astray for the remainder of the season, it was their loss against the Lions last weekend that served as a big lesson instead of a setback to the side according to Kotze.
“I wouldn’t say it is a setback just say it’s an obstacle in our journey ahead. We’ll make the best of it and learn out of the weekend’s game and take on next week,” Kotze said.
Part of the growing pains that the Bulls will obviously go through under Mitchell will be losing while making progress, but it will be what they make of the opportunities where they will be judged considering they look a completely different and better outfit to that which played as the Bulls in the last few years.
Kotze epitomizes everything the Bulls now stand for, from coming from the fringes to now being a permanent starter and making the best of the injury to Springbok wing Jamba Ulengo but still not being fooled by the talk from the outside.
“It was two good starts and most of my teammates made it easier for me. My goal for this year is to take every opportunity as it comes and make the best of it,” added Kotze.
In fact, the Bulls have showed glimpses of the great team they can become in the two matches against the Hurricanes and Lions but they will need to use their three match tour of Australia and New Zealand to prove they are the real deal just like Kotze will have to do
“We as a team can get together a bit better and become more of a unit and make the best of it,” concluded Kotze.