The inner voice that drives a young boy to become a future champion is the constant soundtrack of his journey to greatness. But, in the case of Vodacom Bulls lock Ruan Nortjé, there was someone who believed in him even before he believed.
A voice that told him he would one day join the greatest players in South African rugby history to have pulled on a Bulls jersey.
‘My grandmother,’ says Nortjé as his lanky two-metre frame relaxes in a chair at Loftus Versfeld. ‘She was the one person who always believed in me. She always told me I was going to play for the Bulls one day. For me it was a case of, “Sure. Everyone wants to play for the Bulls when they’re young”.
‘I thought I needed to get into a big-name school to be able to do it. But my grandmother always believed. Her expectations of me were always so high. I need to thank her for always planting that seed in my head. I think that kept me going.’
On this Tuesday morning at Loftus, the 22-year-old Nortjé tells of the incredible passion and privilege he feels to be a part of the union’s proud rugby history, and to have his story showcased through Vodacom’s ‘Future Champs’ initiative that highlights the next generation of rugby stars for the Bulls.
‘It’s a massive privilege to think that I’m playing in the same position as great players like Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha. Just to be able to wear the Bulls jersey is a privilege. That’s why I feel it’s always important for me to give my best out there. Whenever I pull on the Bulls jersey, it’s important for me to play to my utmost ability and nothing less.’
Nortjé has shown this every time he’s taken the field. He was extremely impressive during the Bulls’ Currie Cup success, and his high work rate is what caught the attention of coach Jake White even while he was still under pressure to bulk up and become more of a physical presence. White described Nortjé’s work rate as ‘immense’ and likened his output on the field to that of Springboks Pieter-Steph du Toit and Franco Mostert.
Work rate is something Nortjé prides himself on and something he again takes back to his family.
‘I’m not the biggest lock in the country, so it’s all about work rate for me. I’ve struggled to gain some weight so it’s important for me to keep building on my work rate, and at the end of the day that will make me a better player. I back myself and I think that’s where I separate myself a bit. I want to be even more productive on the field.
‘My work rate comes from my dad. He’s the busiest person I know. He can’t sit still for five minutes, and I saw that every day of my life growing up. It inspired me.’
Even so, Nortjé admits he still has to pinch himself now and again knowing he plays for the Bulls.
‘It’s a dream come true. As a boy I dreamt of winning a Currie Cup with the Bulls, or just running out on to Loftus in the jersey. Every time I run on to that field it’s such an awesome feeling. Then winning the Currie Cup was unreal. Every time I get the opportunity to play for the Bulls, I never take it for granted. It’s important for me to play every game as if it’s my last game.’
And he knows exactly the kind of future champ he wants to be for this team.
‘I believe in the culture and core values at the Bulls. I believe the environment we are in is a good operating environment. I think there is a good group of players here, and that can only mean a great future for the Bulls. When I leave one day, I want to know that I helped build on the great legacy of this team.’
To learn some fun facts about our future champ Ruan Nortjé, download the Vodacom Bulls App now on your app store.