PRETORIA – One would think 22-year-old Divan Rossouw would have had sleepless nights thinking about how he is going to handle man mountain All Blacks and Highlanders wing Waisake Naholo.
But not so for Windhoek-born Rossouw, who had been preoccupied with an accounting test earlier in the week rather than trying to figure of how to exploit Naholo’s weaknesses in Saturday’s Super Rugby clash between the Bulls and Highlanders at Loftus Versfeld (5.15pm).
Rossouw, though, is not oblivious to the fact that he will be coming up against the 98kg, 1.86m tall Fiji-born giant, but the in-form Bulls winger sees his opposite number as just another opponent.
“The test, that’s just a side thing and I don’t worry too much about that. There is obviously a big hype around him (Naholo) and there will be a big hype because I’m a youngster playing against a big All Black wing.”
“But I see him as just another rugby player. He does good things but he also has certain points which I can exploit; I just have to bring my A game,” he said.
Having come out of nowhere this season to command a starting berth on the wing, Rossouw has been in fine form which has seen him score some scintillating tries, and facing Naholo will give him another chance of proving he belongs in Super Rugby, if not at a higher level in the future.
“I think that is definitely why we play the game, to measure yourself against the best in the world. Going up against one of the big All Blacks wings is going to be a big challenge but I’m looking forward to it and measuring myself against him,” Rossouw said.
“He doesn’t know that much about me as I know about him. I think I can use that to my advantage to get the upper hand on him with a surprise or something he doesn’t know about my game. I know most of the things he does, where I can attack him and where to look for him not to expose me.”
In order for Rossouw to have any chance at exposing Naholo, the Bulls will have to dominate the set-pieces.
The Highlanders have quietly gone about their business, leaving the Hurrricanes and Crusaders to take all the accolades from the first half of the season, but with a handful of All Blacks in their squad and the kind of ambitious rugby they play, the Bulls will be well advised to continue placing their best foot forward, as they have done in recent weeks.
“We’ve made a lot of changes and progress in our game plan and our training,” said Rossouw. “I’m feeling really positive we can pull off a full 80-minute performance."
“In all rugby games, win or lose, it starts at the forwards. If they can get a good foundation laid out in front with good set-pieces; that is always a big one for the team. If they can dominate the Highlanders, it will always make the game easier for us as backs.”
The Bulls have gained a lot of confidence in their wins against the Stormers, Sharks and Rebels, but it was how they managed to carve out victory in challenging circumstances against the Rebels that would have strengthened their mental resolve.
Rossouw feels that winning ugly but with maturity against the Rebels has made them an even tougher outfit to play against.
“That is definitely a good thing for us with the mental challenges. Just to overcome that is a good thing for us because we want to be a team that is mentally tough as well as physically tough.”
While Rossouw knows how he is going to deal with Naholo and the rest of the Highlanders team on Saturday, a decision on his future still hangs in the balance.
He had been called up to Namibia’s 2015 World Cup squad and other internationals but the University of Pretoria B.Comm accounting student declined because he was determined to complete his studies.
But with Rossouw on the verge of attaining his degree and still with an honours degree to pursue, the former Windhoek Gimnasium pupil is going to have to make a decision on whether he takes a chance at becoming a Springbok or play for his country of birth.
“I haven’t put much thought into it,” he said.
“In the previous years, Namibia has asked me to play for them and in the 2015 World Cup I was in the squad. But I declined every time due to studies as it’s rugby at the Bulls first and the studies are my top priority.”
“I really want to finish my degree and going to play for Namibia in previous years would have prevented me from finishing my studies this year.”
“I postponed that decision just to finish off my studies and get that behind me and then solely focus on my rugby. I haven’t really put focus into a decision on it but I will see what the future holds.”