The baby face and infectious giggle give you a very different side of Lood de Jager.
But he is still a massive specimen at 2.05m and 125kg, and the Cheetahs lock demonstrated against Scotland on Saturday night at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium that he intends to remain in the Springbok team for many years to come with a rousing performance that was highlighted by a rampaging run for his first Test try.
De Jager also scored a second try later on, but, told that he showed he didn’t have any lead (lood in Afrikaans) in his legs when he galloped just short of 40 metres to the tryline, the shy youngster couldn’t stop laughing.
“Look, like I said, I’m not renowned for that… I am not now a try scavenger. But when I got the ball and I saw the line, I thought that no, this guy is going to catch me before the 22, so I have to go! So I saw that I was getting closer and closer to the tryline and no one is near me! So I went to score it,” the 21-year-old recounted excitedly.
“I haven’t even got a Super Rugby try yet, so it felt more like 80 metres and not 40! The second try was also a great feeling, although it was a bit more traditional for a lock. But it’s a great feeling, it’s unbelievable.
“This is the first time in a while that I played 80 minutes because I was injured for the last few Super Rugby games, so I had a few cramps, especially with that sprint of mine!”
But it was in his primary duties that De Jager, pictured, really caught the eye.
He won lineout ball with relative ease on the night, and he put in some enormous tackles and carried the ball strongly throughout. He couldn’t have asked for a better way to prepare for his first Test than to learn from two of the best locks in history – Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield.
With Flip van der Merwe’s season-ending knee injury, De Jager could become a vital figure in the Bok second row, as Eben Etzebeth is only set to return in the next few weeks.
“You learn a lot from guys like Bakkies and Victor, especially Bakkies, with me playing four lock. He is probably the best number four in the world over a long period of time, so you learn a lot from guys like that in training,” said De Jager, who attended Hugenote Springs High School and came through the North West Pukke under-20 Varsity Cup side.
“And ja, a lot of off-the-ball work… you are not so much on the ball, so it’s more about getting into position and working hard.
“That’s what I’ve learnt the most.” – Cape Argus