Jean Deysel’s meteoric rise in South African rugby should not surprise anybody, as the Currie Cup Player of the Year already showed in his three-year stint with the Lions – before his move to Durban – that he was a cut above.
However, to hear the 23-year-old native of Virginia (Free State) speak of “raising the bar” in next year’s Super 14 will have Sharks fans rubbing their hands in glee.
Rugby 365 reports that the burly loose forward joined the Sharks from the Lions during the Currie Cup season last year, after failing to get a regular starting spot, impressing in his first match for the Durban-based outfit – a compulsory friendly.
Even though he made just three appearances during the regular season last year, he had shown enough.
His speed around the park, combined with his physical play, earned him a place in the Sharks squad for the Super 14 season this year.
Deysel further enhanced his reputation during his eight Super 14 appearances – albeit all off the replacement bench – and then really set the local scene alight during this year’s Currie Cup.
He played in 11 games, starting in 10, and earned a Man of the Match award and the Player of the Month award in August.
Now he is looking forward to taking his game to another level.
“My dad and I spoke about this, maintaining that level, and I have set goals for myself,” Deysel said in an interview on the Sharks’ website.
“Everyone is going to measure me against this season so whatever I do, has to be better. It puts pressure on me to perform, but that’s good. It keeps you on your toes!”
As the Sharks’ pre-season preparations got underway, Deysel also took time out to reflect on the past year.
Despite the awards – Currie Cup Player of the Month and Year, he still sees himself as just part of a team.
“I couldn’t believe the way we played as a team during the Currie Cup and that complimented my game,” he said.
“It’s easier to stand out when a team is doing well. So I have to thank the boys for that.”
He admitted that being named Currie Cup Player of the Year was a huge thrill.
“That was the second biggest thing that could happen to me, the other was winning the Currie Cup Final.
“It means a lot to me and I was stoked to receive it, but it forces me to prepare even harder for next year. It’s like a pre-season boost and I’d obviously like to build on that for next year.”
He admitted that given the heady heights he has reached, it is almost unbelievable given where he was a year ago.
“My aim didn’t even really include the Super 14, as I hadn’t played at that level before, and when I got my first caps, I don’t think I was mentally prepared.
“That’s why I didn’t do so well initially. But after settling in, it just got better, and by the Currie Cup I wanted to prove a point and make myself a regular in the team.”
It couldn’t have started worse though for the human wrecking ball, who gives the Sharks great go forward ball with his bullocking runs, when his first game after the Super 14 ended in disaster – keeping him out of action for the first five rounds of the Currie Cup.
Having fractured bones in his hand in a compulsory friendly against the Griffons, he admitted: “That was a setback, but it gave me the opportunity to take some time to think about things. A lot was happening in my life and expectations were high for me. But I got hungry for rugby.”
That hunger manifested itself throughout the season as he added great value to the Sharks’ campaign as they went about their business of ending a 12-year drought in South Africa’s premier domestic competition.
That victory in the Final, against the Blue Bulls on October 25, was spurred on in no small way thanks to the confidence that an 11-game unbeaten run gave the team.
“After the first five or six wins in a row, we started building momentum and that’s difficult to stop,” he explained.
“The guys were so fired up. Also, the team was settled and there were very few changes to the squad – that contributed a lot to the winning performances we delivered each week.
“We didn’t want to be overconfident, but sitting in the change-room before each game, everyone would be relaxed, knowing what was required and we kept coming out on top. It wasn’t like we simply expected to win every game, but we knew it would be difficult for the other team to beat us.”Tweet