A hamstring niggle will prevent Bulls fullback Johan Roets from getting stuck into the Cats on Saturday, but the setback is temporary.
Roets, one of the Bulls’ stand-out players in their impressive 2005 season, was deemed one of the unluckiest in the country to miss out on Bok selection for the end-of-year-tour.
On reflection, his inclusion would have allowed Percy Montgomery to rest, which hindsight shows would have been the correct call. There is no mention of “maybe” or regrets, however, and Roets is adamant the Bulls are ready to convert Super 12 nearly into Super 14 glory.
“Last year the Blue Bulls and the Bulls had their most successful season ever, but there are no trophies in the cabinet. Two losses, in the semi-final of the Super 12 against the Waratahs and to the Cheetahs in the Currie Cup final, does not prevent us from taking a lot of confidence from the year,” Roets told keo.co.za. “From that perspective, we won’t let the silly mistakes that derailed our two campaigns from being overblown. We learnt a lot last year and are a better side for it.”
Heyneke Meyer is the last to rest on any laurels, and the trophyless 2005 resulted in an intensive camp in George during December.
“The guys trained really hard down in George, it was very intense. Heyneke didn’t hold back and we did a lot of conditioning work. It’s always nice to change the environment, and I think the camp did us the world of good.
“At this stage of our preparations, I’d say we are very similar to how we were shaping up last year. The difference is our mental strength. We’ve got that experience of success in this competition now, and know what is required to be successful. Mentally the guys know they can win there, and whereas in previous seasons there was always hope, now the guys have expectations of themselves and each other.”
Does that extra expectation equate to extra pressure?
“No I don’t think so. In fact I think last year we were under more pressure ‘cos we were three times Currie Cup champs, and people were rightly asking why we couldn’t win a Super 12 game. We didn’t help the situation by starting so badly. I have a very good feeling about this year. I’m positive, I’m excited and the think the rest of the squad share my optimism.”
Roets is never one to speak of personal conquests before team ambition, but there is a quiet determination in the voice to force the Bok door down. As a senior player, he is settled at Loftus, and over the festive period got married to long-term partner Bronwyn, a representative of Vodacom.
“I’m 100%, except for the niggle. I’m very motivated for this year. The team spirit is so great so it is easy getting back into it. I just wanna start winning again.”