JOHANNESBURG – Unsung stalwart Lions prop Jacques van Rooyen has admitted playing against his fellow countrymen gets the juices flowing just a little more than is normally the case.
Van Rooyen, one of the real team men and grafters in the Lions pack, will come up against the highly rated Wilco Louw of the Stormers in a round eight Super Rugby match at Ellis Park on Saturday (5.15pm), and he can’t wait.
“There is definitely more motivation (when you come up against your countrymen),” said Van Rooyen yesterday. “You want to show what you’re made of, prove a point. There’s also an opportunity to show the coaches what you can do as we all try to push for a national call-up.”
Stormers tighthead Louw is seen by many as the future Springbok No 3, but he was shown up by the Bulls’ Pierre Schoeman last weekend, and Van Rooyen is preparing for a big backlash from the young Capetonian.
“You’re always going to go a little harder the next time when you look back at your last performance. There will be some grudge there,” said Van Rooyen about Louw’s performance. “He’ll want to show something... but let’s also take nothing away from Pierre (Schoeman), who had a brilliant game and really put Wilco under pressure.
“The Stormers are going to be tough all-round; they always are. They pride themselves on their strong pack, they like the pick-and-go, but they also like playing expansively. But we know if we can match them, and better them in the scrums and line-outs and in the mauls, we’ll get some rewards.”
The 31-year-old, like all his teammates and the coaching staff, is hoping the Lions can extend their 19-match unbeaten run, which dates back to May 2, 2015, against local sides this weekend.
“Yip, there’s that extra bit of motivation to prove yourself, which has contributed to the run,” said Van Rooyen. “You definitely want them (the opposition) to know they’ve played a good side and been beaten, and it’s the same with your direct opponent; you want him to leave after the game knowing who you are. I think it’s like that for all of us.
“When it comes to local teams facing each other you want to know that when you’re old, you’re going to sit there and be able to speak about a game or player who you got the better of.”
The Lions are under some pressure to win again after losing three of their last four matches and having slipped off the top of the overall Super Rugby points table. They have come unstuck against the Blues (home), Jaguares (away) and Crusaders (home) in the last month and will be desperate to get a win before they enjoy a bye weekend ahead of their four-match overseas tour.
Van Rooyen, though, like most of his teammates and even the coaching staff, is unperturbed about the recent slump in form.
“There’s always going to be some sort of pressure from the media, but if we let it matter then things can snowball. We try not to listen to outsiders and prefer to focus within our group,” he said. “Our overall game against the Crusaders last weekend was one of our best performances this year; the bounce of the ball didn’t go our way and they played well. There’s no need to panic, though.”
Coach Swys de Bruin is set to name his side for Saturday’s match today.