Baby Bok Bullish about senior cap
Baby Bok Bullish about senior capSHARE
Paul Willemse may be some way down on the national pecking order, but the South African Under-20 star is determined to 'jump the queue'.
With Springboks Eben Etzebeth and Flip van der Merwe ahead of him, the 20-year-old Baby Bok has a huge mountain to climb, but the new Bull lock is not daunted by the task at hand.
Willemse had set himself a simple goal early in 2012 – make the Golden Lions Vodacom Cup team. However, at the end of the season he could boast Super Rugby experience with the Lions, Currie Cup caps with the Golden Lions and of course, that gold medal that he won as part of the SA U20 team that won the IRB's Junior World Championship.
To cap a remarkable year, he was offered a contract by the Bulls to move north over the Jukskei and play in Pretoria from 2013 onwards.
"There were many things I did not anticipate last season that came my way," the massive lock admitted.
"It made me realise that one should not place barriers in your way. Dream big," the former Namibian said.
"My dream is to play for the Springboks in 2013."
Willemse only have to look at the likes of Johan Goosen, Pat Lambie, Eben Etzebeth and Siya Kolisi as examples of Baby Boks who made it into the senior Bok ranks the next year to realise that his dream is not that far-fetched.
This goal is also driven by the most experienced Springbok lock of all time, Victor Matfield.
The ex-Bok now coaches the Bulls forward pack and inspired Willemse to make the sky the limit.
"I told him I would like to play for the Bulls on a regular basis in 2013 and he asked me why I don't aspire to play for the Boks. When I said I did, he insisted that I made this part of my career goals for 2013. That will be my focus this season," Willemse said.
Willemse is at ease with the needs and responsibilities that are expected of a number four lock in the Bulls set-up.
"That position always played a massive role in how the Bulls play and most of those playing in the number four jersey have been a Springbok. So it is a huge, but very exciting responsibility and I hope to give it my best shot this year."
Willemse was very impressed with the amount of detail that went into defining his game in that position.
"It is great and I am learning something new every day."
The move north proved seamless to the former pupil of Boerefort Primary in Pretoria.
"I was accepted and made to feel at home immediately. I have a lot in common with a whole bunch of the players in the squad and it already feels if I have been here for ages," he said.
He is keen to get going. He already lost more than 10kg in pre-season and is close to the 120 kg playing weight he is expected at.
"I am fit and strong and ready to play. It was hard over the festive season as I love eating, but now I am very keen to get going. I have never felt better or more motivated in my life."