Former Montpellier coach Jake White has said he is proud of how far Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg has come in his development as a player as he is on the cusp of earning his first Springbok cap.
Of the many new faces in the Springbok camp in 2021, one that flies consistently under the radar is that of Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg.
The towering former Junior Springbok could earn his first cap for South Africa as he joins the Bomb Squad for the Boks’ second Test against Argentina.
Few Springbok fans, however, would have been aware of Janse van Rensburg when he was first named as part of the Springboks’ extended squad for the Lions series. The man who plies his trade for Montpellier was consistently outside of the South African rugby zeitgeist.
One man who knows what Janse van Rensburg can offer better than most is Jake White. The current Bulls director of rugby was coach at Montpellier when he enticed Janse van Rensburg to join the French club. Speaking to News24, White said that the former Affies boy is finally getting the rewards for his hard work.
“I’m very proud of him. He’s gone a different route to many other players. Nicolaas went away and grew up. He was a youngster when he arrived.
“He’s hung in and grown as a player, he’s even married now with a kid. That’s a far cry from the young blond-haired boy from Affies who arrived in France.”
White said that it was little surprise in a country that produces so many outstanding locks that Janse van Rensburg initially struggled to stand out. His decision to move to France was partly motivated by a potential to eventually represent Les Bleus.
“Nicolaas never really put up his hand before then. He was always there or thereabouts, but playing in a country where his age group had such unbelievable locks.
“He arrived as a prospect to become a JIFF player, which essentially means that if you join a French team’s academy and spend enough time there, you actually become a really sought-after player because you become a home-grown product after a few years. He had to make a lot of sacrifices.”
Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber are excellent coaches at identifying overlooked talent and saw something in Janse van Rensburg that few others did. They were not prepared to let him go the way of other locks such as Paul Willemse and Bernard Le Roux and eventually don the blue of France.
Asked what Janse van Rensburg brings as a player, White flagged the versatility he offers as well as his mental steel.
“His point of difference is that he can play lock and 7 (flank). He’s grown in calling lineouts, taking charge and carrying the ball.”
“He was quiet and reserved when he got there, but he learnt to cope. The French league is tough, playing Brive and Grenoble away in the Alps, where it’s freezing and there’s snow on the mountains – you’ve got to grow a bit.
“You can’t get through that by coasting. I’m sure he’s tougher and wiser. He’s learnt to play with and against some of the best players in the world. Montpellier played Champions Cup after all.”
As the Springboks continue to operate without RG Snyman it is encouraging to see the depth that South Africa is developing in the second row. White expects Janse van Rensburg to excel and continue to put pressure on the other locks in the squad.
“I’ve got no doubt he’ll cope and hold his own. To have him on that list of excellent South Africa locks is only going to make him better and the Springbok team environment more competitive.”