De Jongh ready to take centre stage again
INTERVIEW: Juan de Jongh is hoping to secure a regular spot in Allister Coetzee's Springbok squad after nearly four years in the international wilderness.
The centre, who recently returned from the Rio Olympics with a Sevens bronze medal, was largely ignored during Heyneke Meyer's tenure as Springbok coach. The 28-year-old last ran out in a Springbok jersey in 2012 in what was Meyer's first year in charge.
However, with Coetzee now at the helm of the national team, De Jongh is ready to make his mark in the green and gold once again, starting in this year's Rugby Championship.
"That [being ignored by Heyneke Meyer] is something that was out of my control," De Jongh told reporters in Nelspruit.
"That is in the past now and I don't want to go into that. My only focus during those years was to work hard, to make sure that I was well prepared and to make sure that I gave myself an opportunity, even though some people did not think the same way."
De Jongh played under Coetzee for a number of years when the latter was the head coach of Western Province and the Stormers. De Jongh is hoping that his relationship with Coetzee will extend to the national set-up for the next few years as well.
"It is fantastic to be back and working with Allister again," De Jongh added. "He has been my coach for several years now and we formed a nice relationship at Western Province.
"I just want to make sure that I am well prepared to give myself every opportunity to make the team. Hopefully, I get an opportunity from him [Coetzee] to express myself, so that I can at least find myself a spot in this team and stay here for a very long time.
De Jongh said main focus this week is to shift his focus from Sevens to XVs after being a part of Neil Powell's Olympic Sevens team.
"It is two different codes - there is a lot of technical and individual details that needs to go into the Springboks now. Sevens is a totally different code to XVs.
"You learn habits in Sevens, which you can't do in XVs, so it is important that I get some time now to gel into this [Springbok] culture and gel into this team.
"Hopefully, I can still be smart and strong upstairs to make sure that I get away from those bad habits and negative stuff," he said.
By Warren Fortune, in Nelspruit