After a six-year absence from the Springbok set-up, Sharks utility back Adi Jacobs returned to action against Wales earlier this year, manning the midfield with aplomb and making the outside centre berth his own.
Jacobs, who celebrated his 28th birthday on Thursday, played most of this year’s Super 14 as a super-sub, only cementing a spot in the run-on XV during the latter stages of the competition.
Craig Lewis of www.iol.co.za caught up with the humble star who has since turned his career around and will don the No 13 jersey on Saturday when the Boks take on the All Blacks in a crucial Tri-Nations encounter at Newlands.
Craig Lewis: How special was it to make your long-awaited return to the Bok set-up by playing against Wales earlier this year?
Adi Jacobs: It was indescribable. I always had in the back of mind the belief that I would one day play for the Boks again. I was very nervous in the beginning but I knew that the coach was behind me and in the end I really just enjoyed being involved.
CL: How did it feel to be a part of the team that beat the All Blacks in Dunedin?
AJ: Well the Boks haven’t ever won there before so to be a part of the team that did that was unbelievable. It is certainly a memory that will stay with me forever.
CL: Was your subsequent hamstring injury that ruled you out of action for the third Tri-Nations test a very bitter pill to swallow?
AJ: Ja, it was tough. During the week before the Test I said to Peter (de Villiers) I would push through and play if he wanted me to but he said I should rather sit it out to ensure I be fit later and now I’m back and just really excited for the last few games of the Tri-Nations.
CL: Do you feel the Boks are in a prime position to win the Tri-Nations?
AJ: Definitely, we always said the goal would be to return to South Africa having won at least one game on tour and we did just that. Peter actually spoke to a number of teams during the Super 14 and said he knew it was possible for us to win at home but emphasised that we needed to start believing that we could win overseas as well. That planted a seed of belief within all of us and really laid the platform for the win in New Zealand.
CL: How do you feel about your form at the moment?
AJ: I’m feeling good but I’ve always said that when you are playing in the midfield, if one guy does well or does badly, the pair of you are generally painted with the same brush. So Jean (de Villiers) and I just need some time to gel.
CL: What is your message to your fans and critics alike?
AJ: My message is just for the public to keep their faith in me as a player. I’ve really become more relaxed as a player and I now know what Test rugby is about. I know what the coach expects of me and I will just continue to try and deliver what he wants.
Also, as a player I think you grow from criticism. I think you can learn lessons from what people have to say about you and generally I think they just want me to be the best I can be, it’s nothing personal.
CL: How special was your Man-of-the-Match performance against Argentina this past weekend?
AJ: It was great but I was actually so surprised to receive the man-of-the-match award. I even kept asking the media guy if he was sure. Nevertheless, it was really nice.
CL: Do you think it was ill-advised to have a Test match in the middle of the Tri-Nations?
AJ: No, not really, it was an honour to play a Test match in honour of Madiba and I think as much game time a player can get the better it is. We have also taken confidence from the comfortable win.
CL: How have you enjoyed working with Peter de Villiers?
AJ: I’ve worked with him before and he is a really easy-going coach. He allows players the freedom to make their own decisions and stands behind you when you do make certain decisions. He is a very flexible coach and in fact all the medical and coaching staff are just great.
CL: You must be very excited to play for the Springboks in Cape Town this weekend?
AJ: Yes, it is my first Test at Newlands and I’m really just looking forward to producing a good performance. I’d really love to be able to get a try.
CL: What is the mood like in the camp ahead of the match against the All Blacks?
AJ: It is always very good. The more we win the better it gets and there are a lot of great characters in the team who really drive the guys.
CL: Are you happy to play at outside centre? Do you want to specialise in that position?
AJ: I am happy there but I am also happy to play wherever the coach needs me to. I have never believed in demanding to play in one position.
CL: How does it feel to have gone from an impact player for the Sharks at the beginning of the year to starting at centre for the Boks?
AJ: I was never too concerned about playing off the bench for the Sharks. I was determined to make the most of the 20 or 30 minutes I got and in the end it paid off.
CL: Are you looking forward to returning to the Sharks for the latter parts of the Currie Cup?
AJ: Ja, I really can’t wait. I’ve always said that Natal is just an incredible union. I hope one day I can end my career there. The Currie Cup is an exciting competition and hopefully I can add some value.
CL: Are you confident the Boks can beat New Zealand this weekend?
AJ: Well we are just taking it game by game but the ball is in our court and destiny is in our hands. So if we stick to our game plan I’m sure we can pull it off.Tweet