De Jager, a mountain at 2.05m and 125kg, is in line to make his Bok debut in the first Test against Wales this weekend at Kings Park after he was named on the bench in the place of Flip van der Merwe who is attending his brother’s wedding.
“Growing up I looked up so much to guys like Victor (Matfield) and Bakkies and for a young guy like me to train alongside them has been unbelievable,” the elated 21-year-old said yesterday.
“They have taught me so much in my short time with the squad, like general play and the finer points of lineout play from none other than the Blood Brothers.”
De Jager admitted it is a dream come true for him to play for his country after he was still in the Leopards structures two years ago before joining the Cheetahs.
“I was emotional already two weeks ago when I was invited to the Bok training camp, and then it became even better last week when I was included in the squad for the June Test matches,” he said.
“I just want to thank Heyneke (Meyer, coach) for the opportunity and I will just give my very best if I do get game time.”
The Springbok coach credited De Jager with his perseverance in training, and even joked that people mustn’t underestimate locks as “Lood had three distinctions in Matric”.
“One of my great pleasures as a coach is to tell a player that he is in the squad for this weekend to experience that delight and utter joy, simply makes my job worthwhile.
“Guys like Lood and Eben (Etzebeth) are the future of Springbok rugby and I’m really greatful for him to get this opportunity,” Meyer said yesterday.