Cape Town – Cheetahs coach Franco Smith is impressed with the commitment shown by their Springbok lock, Lood de Jager.
The 23-year-old, 2.06m beanpole boasts 19 caps for the Springboks since making his debut in 2014.
De Jager, who was on Thursday named SA Rugby Player of the Year for 2015, will be vital to the Cheetahs’ cause when they open their Super Rugby campaign against Argentina’s Jaguares in Bloemfontein on Friday night.
Since returning to the Cheetahs after last year’s Rugby World Cup, De Jager has fitted in seamlessly.
“He’s brought a good attitude. When he came here (after the World Cup) there was excitement around his return and he just fitted in perfectly,” Smith said at a press conference in Bloemfontein earlier this week.
“He also brought a little bit of aggression and intensity at training – which we want. He’s also very confident calling the lineouts now, especially having done it for South Africa.”
Along with the confidence gained playing Test rugby, Smith is happy that De Jager has not lost any of his exuberance.
“He brings a bit of a youthful seriousness if I can put it that way. He’s still young enough to make the odd joke, but he knows what it’s about and that just helps the team environment a lot.”
De Jager’s award as 2015 SA Rugby Player of the Year makes him the youngest winner of the most prestigious award in South African rugby since Bryan Habana walked away with the spoils in 2005, aged 22.
The Cheetahs lock edged out fellow nominees for the top award, Damian de Allende, Eben Etzebeth, Schalk Burger and Jaco Kriel.
Friday night’s Cheetahs-Jaguares clash at the newly-named Toyota Stadium kicks off at 19:00.
15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Charles Marais
Substitutes: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Reniel Hugo, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Paul Schoeman, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Niel Marais
15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Jerónimo De la Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Rodrigo Baez, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (captain), 1 Lucas Noguera
Substitutes: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Facundo Isa, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Matias Orlando