Johan Grobbelaar’s Bulls time is now after appendicitis, Covid-19 scares
GROWING up in Paarl, Johan Grobbelaar’s heroes may have been the likes of Springbok legends Jean de Villiers and Schalk Burger, who attended Paarl Gym and became Western Province and Stormers stalwarts.
The 22-year-old hooker could have become a household name in the Cape, but instead, he followed Handre Pollard - who matriculated from the famous school three years before him in 2012 - and rather joined the Bulls.
“Sometime in matric, I got contacted by the Bulls, and they offered me an opportunity to come to Pretoria and play for them - and initially, I thought ‘No! I will never move to Gauteng - I am a Bolander’, and I will never go away from the farm and the family and everything,” Grobbelaar said this week.
“But then we thought about it and spoke about it, and it actually was a good move as they offered me a bursary to study at university (at Tuks), and at the end of the day, it was the big thing that convinced me to come here. I could play rugby and study as well.
“I played Under-19, and the following year, I was chosen for the SA Under-20 team and was vice-captain when we went over to Georgia and came third. I also got my Currie Cup debut, and I thought, ‘Yo, I could do something with my career and maybe I should go for it’.”
He made his Super Rugby debut in 2018, but a serious ankle injury that required an operation earlier this year meant that he missed out on the curtailed season before lockdown.
But new Bulls director of rugby Jake White clearly believes that he is a serious talent, and has brought him into the starting line-up for the last Super Rugby Unlocked game against the Cheetahs.
“Johan Grobbelaar had some appendicitis at the beginning, and then he got Covid. So, the poor guy basically sat out for a couple of weeks - about eight or nine weeks in total in the time that we’ve been together,” White said at the time.
“So, it has taken him a little while to catch up to the other guys. Now that we feel he is on par and sort of got into the shape we wanted him to get into, he gets a start.”
He has been accurate with his line-out-throwing, with lock Sintu Manjezi saying that the Bulls won 14 out of 17 line-outs in the 19-17 defeat to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last week.
But Grobbelaar will have to show some grunt around the field as well if the Bulls hope to dominate upfront against the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday (7pm kick-off).
Sharks coach Sean Everitt will have bustling first-choice hooker Kerron van Vuuren back from a chest injury, so Grobbelaar will have his hands full from the kick-off.
The latter said that he is not someone who sets long-term goals, but bringing some glory back to Loftus Versfeld is one of them - and beating the Sharks will bring the Bulls back into contention for the Super Rugby Unlocked title.
“I have never been a big goal-setter, and I just believe in hard work. You can achieve a lot if you don’t dream, but still work hard. Goals are important I started here in 2016, and we’ve been in a lot of competitions, but I just haven’t been able to win a trophy yet,” Grobbelaar said.
“So, definitely one of my goals will be to win a trophy - and even more than one, and just make the loyal fans over the years, just to give something back after the glory years, for all the coaches, management, and everyone who works at Loftus, and all the families.”