CAPE TOWN – Having solely began enjoying rugby at the age of 19, Lizo Gqoboka is a little bit of a late bloomer.
He has additionally needed to present unimaginable persistence in making his breakthrough to top-level rugby, with various seasons at Eastern Province earlier than moving into the massive time and Super Rugby as soon as he moved to the Bulls in 2016.
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Established as the No 1 in Pretoria, Gqoboka earned two Springbok caps in 2019, however missed out on the Rugby World Cup squad, the place the larger versatility of first Trevor Nyakane after which damage substitute Thomas du Toit was most popular.
But maybe Gqoboka’s time will come this year, following Tendai Mtawarira’s retirement. Steven Kitshoff is undoubtedly the first in-line for the Bok No 1 jersey, however a high Rainbow Cup South Africa marketing campaign could see the Bulls frontranker back in the Test frame.
The carrot of the British & Irish Lions collection looms giant, and the 31-year-old loosehead prop hopes to catch the eye of Bok coach Jacques Nienaber, beginning towards the Lions at Loftus on Saturday.
“I think every athlete, every rugby player would love to play against the British & Irish Lions. It’s such a massive privilege and such a great series … it comes once after 12 years,” Gqoboka stated.
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“So, to even have an opportunity to be involved is a massive blessing and definitely a motivation to work hard and give myself the best chance to make the team. And yeah, that’s what I’m focusing on at the moment – just making sure that I am fit and do well here at the Bulls.
“Hopefully the Springbok selectors will get me in. If not, then I know that I (have) given everything I have, and it’s out of my control.”
His progress was hampered by a problematic calf damage final season, however he now feels in high form after “working hard on my conditioning.”
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Gqoboka was a rock in the Bulls scrum when he did play final season, however will face one other critical take a look at of his technical talents towards the Lions. Jannie du Plessis, at 38, is aware of each trick of the “dark arts”, whereas Carlu Sadie is a powerhouse tighthead at 125kg.
But the Bulls man has some inside data on Du Plessis, after they spent a while collectively at Montpellier in 2019.
“Jannie is a very smart scrummager. You feel when you scrum against him, it’s not only just power … he’s technically sound, so I enjoy scrumming against him. I’m sure he knows what I bring, and I know what he brings, but with such experience, he will always have something in the back pocket. And that’s what makes it exciting,” Gqoboka stated.
“The Lions scrum is very good, very experienced … good system.
It’s always a nice challenge to scrum against them, because you know that you can’t relax. Each and every scrum is a war, every scrum. You have to show up and concentrate.”