Nortje the real deal for Boks – Bekker

rugby23 February 2024 08:55| © SuperSport
By:Brenden Nel
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Ruan Nortje © Gallo Images

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus may have his hands full already ahead of a jam-packed season, but one player that he should choose - according to Vodacom Bulls assistant coach Andries Bekker - is the Pretoria side’s captain Ruan Nortje.

Nortje has been around Bok camps before and while Bekker was always going to back his local players, anyone watching the Bulls of late would hardly have been able to argue that Nortje’s presence and workrate are a big part of the Bulls this season and deserve a deeper look.

Since returning from injury, Nortje has been in superb form and his support play has been one of the hallmarks of an incredible workrate.

And Bekker sang his praises.

“I think for me, the one great thing with Ruan is he’s very smart, he understands the game. His general knowledge of everything is very good,” Bekker said.

“The things I picked up early in the pre-season was just around a couple of basics, around his lineout skill and jumping skills.

“He’s really smart with option-taking and how we plan around the week. It was just that final basic skills we worked on. He’s not perfect, but he is definitely getting there,” he said.

Nortje’s leadership skills have also come under the spotlight, with Bekker saying his calmness was a massive asset for the Bulls.

“I do think that one of Ruan’s better attributes is his leadership, he’s calm, smart and clear-headed which makes it a lot easier for us,” Bekker said.

“It has helped him a lot, the positive thing about that is he has players like Marcell Coetzee and Elrigh Louw, who’s been captain for us in different games, around him,” he said.

Bekker was also full of praise for the young Bulls lock Rynhardt Ludwig, who has exploded onto the scene amid a locks crisis for the Bulls and simply claimed the four jersey with his performances.

“I think Reinhardt Ludwig is one of the golden finds of the season so far. He is young, clever, he wants to train hard and wants to learn and become better,” Bekker smiled.

“His work rate is something that makes him special, and it is easy for him because he is learning from Ruan Nortjé, who is one of the better locks in the country.

“The big thing for Reinhardt is to just handle that pressure. He has played a whole lot of games at four and five, but if you want to take the next step, it is about constantly, under pressure, making the right decisions – to make the right line-out calls, to make sure everybody understands the detail.

“I’m not saying that he isn’t doing it, but if you do that the whole day and every day, and the guys around him understand, then the next step for him will be being one of the finds of the URC season, and being one of the best URC players for the next few years.

“But these are young players. The young lock coming through, JF van Heerden, is only 19 and has already played a URC game.

“The depth in the squad at lock alone is very good, and then in the loose forwards, it’s Elrigh Louw, Cameron Hanekom, Mpilo (Gumede), who want to work hard and get better.

“Then you have the older guys like Marcell (Coetzee) and Wilco (Louw), who want to help the guys. The desire of the guys to want to improve is quite exciting,” Bekker said.

And if the engine room is growling with hunger, then the pack normally fires. The Bulls know as they approach the business end of the season it is only going to get tougher.

But the outlook thus far is one that will make them happy, especially up front.