Ivan van Zyl, Embrose Papier learning a lot from master Fourie du Preez
CAPE TOWN - Ivan van Zyl was quick to heap praise on the Bulls forwards for making his life easier in the past weekend’s bonus-point triumph over the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld.
But the scrumhalf was a vital piece of the puzzle in the 41-14 Super Rugby Unlocked victory himself.
Even when the forwards provide front-foot ball, the No 9 is the main man in deciding what happens with that possession. Van Zyl has been regarded as a bit of a kicking scrumhalf up to now, but proved why he became a Springbok in 2018 as he varied his play cleverly to keep the Sharks defence busy.
He fed flyhalf Morné Steyn, found rampaging forwards like Duane Vermeulen when he needed to, and yes, kicked when he wanted to. But perhaps the most significant moment was when he broke from a ruck and threw a brilliant inside pass to Elrigh Louw, who galloped ahead and put Marco van Staden over for the five-pointer.
“The forwards made it very easy for me. If your pack goes forward, then it makes it much easier for nine and 10 to make good decisions, so I was very pleased with the way I played,” the 25-year-old said.
“But the forwards laid the foundation, and it becomes much easier to make the right decisions. There were small things that we knew we had to change to get the flow back into our game. We needed to be clinical at the right times.
“Our decision-making was much better, and we identified space better and made the right decisions. The better decisions you make, the better rugby you will play, and when we got our chances, we were clinical and finished off.”
Battling with another top No 9 in Embrose Papier seems to be bringing the best out of Van Zyl, who feels that they get along well and understand that putting the team first will benefit both players.
Having former Bok legend Fourie du Preez as a consultant for the scrumhalves has had a big impact on his game as well.
“I grew up with Fourie du Preez as one of my rugby heroes, so to work with someone of his calibre is for us as nines priceless. We are learning a lot from him, and while it’s only been a few sessions, the small tactical things make such a big difference. Those are things that only someone with his experience and point of view can teach us,” he said.
But Bulls boss Jake White has warned his players not to get carried away, as the Stormers will present a different challenge at Loftus on Saturday (7pm kick-off). Van Zyl will come up against one of his chief rivals for a Test berth in Herschel Jantjies, and if he impresses, he could catch the eye of new Bok coach Jacques Nienaber.
“You obviously want to meet yourself against the best, and he is the best in South Africa. So, we will go out and I’m excited for the challenge that lies ahead.
“It’s all about what will make our team win - that’s the main focus and main goal. But there will always be small battles within a game, and I’m very excited for that.”