Johan Grobbelaar. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)
- Johan Grobbelaar’s biggest lesson he can share with the Bulls after his Springbok squad inclusion is how the national team retains its composure.
- The rising star at hooker was amazed by how well the Boks summoned the will and skill to beat the All Blacks after a difficult Rugby Championship campaign.
- With the Bulls facing similar mental challenges in the URC, Grobbelaar hopes he can help dealing with them easier.
Johan Grobbelaar will bring back a lot of insights to the Bulls from the Springboks following his stint with the national side in the entire Rugby Championship campaign.
Yet if there’s one thing the talented 23-year-old hooker can impart on his team-mates in the United Rugby Championship (URC), it’s the example of how Siya Kolisi and his troops retained their composure in Australia.
“We lost some of our games by the smallest of margins,” said Grobbelaar, who should be expected to play a role in Friday night’s hastily shifted derby encounter with the Sharks in Durban.
“The guys really pulled together and it was amazing to see and learn how those guys kept their composure throughout. Things were actually becoming a bit tough in those final weeks and for us to still come up with the will and skill and beat the All Blacks was great.
“It’s not every day you beat them away from home.”
Indeed, the thrilling 31-29 victory was one of the highlights of the Bok season, conjured up when they easily could’ve just bemoaned a tiring schedule and have one foot on the plane already.
Given the Bulls’ struggles on their inaugural URC tour to the UK and Ireland – where they lost three out of four and became progressively bogged down by the challenge of adapting to refereeing interpretations – Grobbelaar would do well to remind his team-mates that in adversity there’s always opportunity too.
“It was a great experience (to be in the Springbok camp). I really was surprised when I got the call-up, it really wasn’t something I expected,” he said.
“I learnt a lot. It was great to see how the systems worked.”
Grobbelaar, the stand-out local No 2 in the Rainbow Cup and Currie Cup earlier this year, wasn’t ever expected to make his international debut as he’s last in a pecking order that features Joseph Dweba, Malcolm Marx and Bongi Mbonambi.
And, to national coach Jacques Nienaber’s credit, his message has been the same to the man from Paarl as it was to other hopefuls such as Aphelele Fassi: knock the door down like Jasper Wiese.
“That comes at its time. You can’t be impatient,” said Grobbelaar.
“It’s about playing well week-in and week-out. I’ll await my chance. For now, I’m looking forward to the game-time because I haven’t actually played for some time.”
Hailed by Bulls mentor Jake White for his unrelenting work-rate, Grobbelaar will need to put that strength into overdrive, especially after analysing the franchise’s start to life in Europe.
“We played a lot against each other locally over the past year and you could immediately see from the overseas teams that things are different and quicker,” he said.
“You have to be adaptable, that’s the big lesson I learnt. More importantly, we’ll need to upgrade our game in several areas.”
Kick-off at Kings Park is at 19:00 on Friday.