Gcobani Bobo is settling into life at Newcastle Falcons.
Bobo’s move from Western Province was slowed because of red tape surrounding a work permit, but the 29-year-old finally arrived at the north-east club on Sunday and was straight into training the following day.
A week with the club has been enough to convince the six-cap Springbok that the move was a wise one.
‘I’ve been very happy with the whole set-up here, which I think is excellent,’ he told the Falcons’ official website.
‘I was dreading the English mud when I first came, so it was a bit of a shock to get to the training ground and find this absolutely unbelievable plastic pitch. It’s a really first class surface like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, so that’s something new, and especially in winter we’ll really feel the benefits of that.
‘The strength and conditioning set-up here is superb, definitely right up there with the very best international teams in the world, and that’s going to be so important for us in such a physical league as the Guinness Premiership.
‘On the rugby philosophy I really believe in the way that Steve Bates and Alan Tait see the game. It’s exactly how I think rugby should be played, and if you add all of these things together then you start to get a pretty strong feeling of how good we can be this season.’
Bobo said he needed a fresh challenge nine years into his senior professional career.
‘It’s just refreshing to hear some different voices, new ideas and some different philosophies on how rugby should be played,’ he said. ‘I’m looking at it as a new challenge, I’m so excited even at 29 years old and I just want to get into it. This is a new stage of my life and my rugby, and I’m very much looking forward to it.’
He added that he was familiar with the Premiership from watching a fair number of matches on South African television, and said the league is a good stage on which to measure yourself.
‘There are a lot of quality teams and great players, so it’s a great stage on which to judge your talent and learn about yourself and your team mates,’ he said.
‘There are a lot of different competitions up here, but everyone at the club seems focused on the Premiership and really targeting that as the main goal for the season. We see ourselves as being very competitive in that league and really capable of achieving a good position.’
Bobo has befriended former Hurricanes and Blues flyhalf Jimmy Gopperth, one of the Falcons’ key close season signings, and is staying in the house the New Zealander’s did upon his arrival until he finds more suitable accommodation.
Bobo said the process of getting into the UK was cumbersome and tiring, featuring English exams and a number of interviews in order to secure a visa and work permit.
‘It was strange to say the least, and having sat the exams to then have to wait a few weeks for my papers was extremely frustrating when I knew the boys over here were already together and training as a team,’ he said.
‘Luckily I kept in touch with everything that was going on via the official website of the club, so in that sense I still felt a part of things, but to be training on my own back home waiting for my visa was a little bit annoying at the time.
‘Even though I’ve only just arrived I feel like I know what’s going on here, because I’ve been reading interviews on the website with the coaches and players, talking about their beliefs and ambitions and how they want to go about things.’
Bobo is acutely aware that expectations of him are high, but he is unfazed by those, or comparisons with midfielders who have preceded him at the club.
‘For me that’s just not an issue at all, because I’m a totally different person from anyone that was here before,’ he said.
‘I’m a new character on this scene, and I will bring my own style to it. The guys who went before have paved the way with some of the things they’ve done for this club, I know how much it means to everyone and hopefully in a few years I’ll be remembered in my own right for what I did in a Falcons jersey.’