Veteran midfielder JP Nel hopes to give the Bulls an ‘Australian edge’ in the Super 14 this year, following his six-month stint in the Japanese club league.
Speaking to rugby365.com’s Jan De Koning as the Bulls stepped up preparations for their season-opener against an Australian outfit, the Reds, in Pretoria on Saturday, Nel revealed that he learned few Aussie secrets while abroad.
He played for NTT Communications Shinings Arcs, with the entire coaching staff – head coach Shannon Fraser, Ben Darwin and Charlie Higgins – from the Sydney region. Fraser is a former Waratahs Academy and skills coach, Darwin a forwards mentor and Higgins a former Tahs conditioning coach.
Nel feels he – much like the Springboks did with Eddie Jones on board at the 2007 World Cup – gained some valuable insight into the Australia way of approaching the game.
“It was very interesting to see the game from an Australian point of view,” Nel told rugby365.
“Everything they learnt in Australia they brought with them to the club [in Japan].
“They concentrated a lot on skills, something the Japanese lack, also the Australian approach to running lines and they worked a lot on that. It was really interesting to be coached by an Australian,” he added.
The Bulls midfielder, who was in the Bulls fold for eight years before his sabbatical in Japan, said that while the men from Pretoria stayed on top of all the new coaching methods that came onto the stage, there was still a lot of value in getting a different viewpoint.
“It is just about the way they see the game and approach the game, which is very different to how we see it,” Nel said.
Nel, who admitted that he missed the South African sunshine, said the main reason for taking up the club contract in Japan was to take himself out of his comfort zone.
“I wanted something different and that is exactly what I got,” Nel told rugby365.com, adding: “The way they play and the way we play are vastly different … two different worlds.
“The Japanese players are very committed, even though they aren’t professionals, but they are at every training session. You never hear them complain. However, they definitely lack a bit in size and in the contact situation.”
The burly midfielder says he is happy to be back amongst his Bulls teammates and looking forward to some Super 14 rugby again.
“The Japanese do play hard and they try, but it is just nice to be back among the guys that are that step up,” he said, adding: “Here [in the Super 14] you don’t have to worry if you go up [on defence] about the guys on your inside, or if you run a certain line about the guys will be there on your outside.
“I’m looking forward to playing at that higher level.”
And there is a twist to that challenge, playing at a higher lever, as Nel will have tough competition for the outside centre berth – where the former Lions centre and Springbok Jaco Pretorius, Marius Delport, Braam Gerber and Stephan Dippenaar will all be vying for the No.13 berth.
But Pretorius, a former Springbok Sevens captain and one of the most creative midfielders in South Africa, poses his biggest challenge.
“They say competition brings the best out of you,” a philosophical Nel said, adding: “Everybody wants to play, but in a competition like the Super 14, with 13 weeks of brutal rugby, you do need depth.
“The one player keeps the next on his toes and that’s a good thing.”
Nel, with 65 caps, is one of the most experienced Super Rugby players in South Africa and is of immense value to the Bulls.
But it is his defensive skills that makes him such a feared opponent.Tweet