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Jacques Potgieter fulfils wish linking with Waratahs in Super Rugby

Man mountain: Waratahs recruit Jacques Potgieter trains on Tuesday.

Man mountain: Waratahs recruit Jacques Potgieter trains on Tuesday. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Jacques Potgieter aims to prove that he is a blue-blooded Waratah who is driven by the goal of helping NSW win their first Super Rugby title.

But on Tuesday, the 27-year-old South African forward who has signed with NSW for two years said he was still very much a Springbok as well. ''As a rugby player you always want to play for your country. You always want to play at the highest level you can. I still have that ambition,'' said Potgieter, whose career includes three Tests caps and 23 in Super Rugby.

Potgieter, who is 194 centimetres and 115 kilograms and joined NSW from the Fukuoka Sanix Blues in Japan where he played for a short stint after leaving the Bulls in South Africa last year, said he has not spoken to Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer since arriving in Sydney last month.

But with the South African Rugby Football Union's openness to consider overseas based players for Test selection - unlike Australian Rugby Union policy - Potgieter said he spoke with the Springbok coach ''before I went to Japan''.

''He said, 'Best of luck,' and 'Look after yourself'. I haven't spoken to him [since], but if you are playing good enough, they can't leave you out. [However], my focus is [on] settling in with the Waratahs and then doing my best for the team and then everything will look after that.''

Potgieter's Springbok goals should not concern Waratahs coach Michael Cheika, who signed him foremost as a second-rower and for his physicality, ball skills and athleticism. He just needs to him to ready fighting fit for NSW. And that is what Cheika hopes he will see on Friday night when Potgieter plays in the Waratahs' last trial against the Highlanders in Newcastle.

Potgieter said he has ''always wanted to play for the Waratahs, especially from last year - watching them play [with] the new style … a physical game and they swing the ball out wide. They [also] have good history.'' Cheika's in-your-face manner as a head coach has certainly not put off Potgieter. He is accustomed to old-school coaching in South Africa.

On Tuesday, he recalled pre-season training camps with his old Currie Cup team, the Eastern Province Kings - and not the Bulls, as Waratahs captain Dave Dennis thought last week - when the team would be woken up without warning at ''three or four in the morning'' for training. ''We used to train hard and unexpected hours just to [learn to] be ready,'' he said.

Potgieter is certainly ''ready'' for his first game for NSW after having completed his second successive training run with the Waratahs on Tuesday - since his arrival in Sydney, he bided his time to recover from a calf niggle.

''I'm feeling very good. I am up with [the game plans] and looking forward to it,'' he said.

While a known back-rower, Potgieter has no qualms about playing at lock either. ''I told Michael I am a team player, whatever he reckons is the best for the team I will play that position. I will be up for the challenge,'' he said.

''I will give it 100 per cent whether it is lock, whether it's No.8 or blindside, I'll play anywhere.''

Of course, Potgieter will still bring the trademark physicality of South African rugby to the Waratahs, even if he says it is not a trait of the Australian game.

13 comments so far

  • I am sure Potgieter is a useful player and may make the SA squad again, but surely since Australia only selects its squad from players domiciled in Australia, unlike SA, why in the hell would the ARU allow a a SA to play for an Australian S15 team. 100% of all Australian S15 spots should be those who qualify to become a Wallaby. The ARU need to make up their minds, rethink their policies so they are more consistent.

    Date and time
    February 12, 2014, 6:45AM
    • Potgieter!! Now that's a good solid Dinky Di' name if I ever saw one!

      Simon Sez'! You're exactly correct mate, but the Aussie Super franchises are chock full of New Zealanders, (ones that can't cut it in their home teams) as they stand, so I'd imagine that Mr. Potgieter would be in the same category, can't cut in South Africa so head for ''good old OZ, they'll accept anybody!

      Niceties go out the window mate and you're spot on in saying that "any player selected for S15 spots should be those who qualify to be a Wallaby", but it won't ever happen because if that theory was enforced there wouldn't be a competitive S15 side in the competition as it'd mean that all the New Zealanders and others wouldn't be able to play either.

      Cheers mate, "good post".

      Date and time
      February 12, 2014, 11:01AM
    • I hardly think having one overseas marquee player in your team constitutes a problem for Australian rugby. Take a look at the French Top 14 comp - now there it's a real issue. Don't forget that Australian players go to France and Japan for the money so if we plug the occasional gap with an overseas player then fair enough.

      Date and time
      February 12, 2014, 11:18AM
    • Agree, and I think this is one of the reasons why the All Blacks players are developed so well and seamlessly integrate at the highest level. Because they identify their young players well, they develop them and they back them. They don't look at overseas players. Potgieter may be great for the Tahs' title aspirations, but will take the spot of a young, up and coming player that may be good enough by next year for the world cup squad. Someone like Will Skelton, Greg Peterson or Jed Holloway.

      Date and time
      February 12, 2014, 12:33PM
    • Spot. On. Potgetter is just another typical Saffa. All p.... and wind. Blah blah blah we are so tuff and blah blah again. They aren't smart enough or fast enough to be real threats. Why are we helping to develop Springboks for South Africa ?. Cheika needs to check his Australian loyalometer (don't try to pronounce this at home)

      Date and time
      February 12, 2014, 3:23PM
    • Because he is a class player that the waratahs have missed since their inception as a club. Out of all the positions in australian rugby, lock is our weakest, we have bloody Rob Simmons starting in our best XV, THAT is saying something. Also, I don't believe the ARU is against any aussie team actually trying to win super 15, the key to the waratahs winning this year is the work of the forwards like Potgieter, Skelton and Hooper opening the gateway for the backs to bring it home.

      Date and time
      February 12, 2014, 11:17PM
    • Have you even watched Super rugby before Simon? Australia simply don't have the playing stocks to fill their own teams. Hell, half of the Wallabies weren't even born in the country, so where do you draw the line? Add to that the lure of French / Japan rugby and you have even less choice.
      Imagine the Force having only local players available to them, because Australians aren't exactly lining up from the eastern states to go West. Why do you think they have 8 or so Saffers in the squad this year.

      Date and time
      February 13, 2014, 12:48PM
    • @ johnny-boy -- "helping to develop Springboks for South Africa"!!!!

      Potgieter is already a Springbok AND played for a Super-15 team that has won the title 3 times before he decided to see the world -- Japan and now Australia.

      So what development is there for him by joining a team with a lot of huff-and-puff BUT that is about it (NO TITLES) -- I think the opposite is true, damaging his career to come and play for a losing team!!!

      Date and time
      February 13, 2014, 4:56PM
  • Well, Simon, you will no doubt be shocked to learn that the Brumbies have two new South African players for 2014 (Conrad Hoffman and Lionel Cronjé) and the Western Force have at least seven (Marcel Brache, Chris Heiberg, Brynard Stander and Wilhelm Steenkamp in the main squad, and Dillyn Leyds, Dylan Sage and Francois van Wyk in the wider training squad). The reality is that Australia simply doesn't have the players required to field five teams.

    Date and time
    February 13, 2014, 7:54AM
    • I watch a ton of Super rugby (saw nearly every fixture in 2012 and 2013), that doesn't qualify me as an expert, but I know a decent player in the comp when I see one. Potgieter was one of my favorite backrowers last year and I felt he was massively under-used by the Bulls in 2013. He will be massive for the Waratahs this year and will bring a hard edge to their pack. The Waratah players have already said that his presence at training has already lifted the intensity and quality of the sessions. Having a marque player, although not eligible for Wallaby selection, can have a positive effect on those that are eligible. As a Reds fan, I wish he was in our squad!

      Date and time
      February 13, 2014, 3:37PM

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