“I’ve always believed in scoreboard pressure”
BACK when Trevor Nyakane was the Pumbaa to Raymond Rhule’s Timon, it didn’t seem likely that the dynamic front-row forward had the leadership capabilities, much less the discipline, to captain a Super Rugby franchise.
Nyakane was a jovial, happy-go-lucky loosehead when he broke through at the Cheetahs almost 10 years ago.
And in 2013 – perhaps the nadir of his career – he was booted from the Springbok camp after repeated protocol breaches. He was also branded a “constant eater” and his discipline was called into question.
He’d become a Bok and fallen into the entitlement trap Rassie Erasmus described in his now famous viral footage from behind the 2019 Rugby World Cup scenes.
Six years later, however, Nyakane is at the apex. When it was confirmed that regular Bulls skipper Burger Odendaal would not recover from his calf injury in time to face the Jaguares at home tomorrow, the decision to appoint Nyakane as stand-in captain was a no-brainer.
Although his World Cup was cut miserably short, the fact that he willed himself to become a vital part of Erasmus’ successful team, after going through a significant positional change from loosehead to tighthead, showed Nyakane’s strength of character.
At the Bulls he’s now become the one they will look towards to inspire them to change this season’s fortunes. He is now the one the players will feed off and look to for guidance, during what’s expected to be an epic clash with the Argentinians.
Three straight losses have made for a sorry start to the season and the 23-21 last-gasp defeat to the Blues at home sank spirits all over Pretoria.
The brevity of a one-point lead was shown when the Bulls led following Juandre Rudolph’s 74th minute try but succumbed to an 83rd-minute Otere Black penalty.
The way things ended last weekend has put a conundrum for the stand-in skipper to negotiate: go for points or go for the jugular next time.
“I’ve always believed in scoreboard pressure,” said Nyakane.
“It changes the way teams play. If the opportunities to go for the line-out are there, I’ll back my forward pack to maul and do the right things. But earlier in the game you need to find ways to apply pressure on a team.
“We have a very good kicker in Morne Steyn that will be able to slot them from very far if the points are available. If you score three penalties, the opposition won’t even catch up if they score a try.
“That changes how a team plays. They will start playing catch-up rugby and that’s where we want teams to be.”
But the Jaguares are not in Pretoria to watch a Nyakane coronation as captain and are expected to make things tough for the Bulls.
“They’ve got a very strong pack and they do want to scrum and maul,” Nyakane said.