Stormers lock Salmaan Moerat is relishing the opportunity to feature for the Springboks in his maiden tour when they take on Wales, Scotland and England in November.
Moerat faced a career threatening neck injury early in the year, but made fantastic progress to recover and then feature for the Stormers in the United Rugby Championship, where he impressed enough to be the only new name in the Bok squad from the one that did business in the Rugby Championship.
“I was absolutely thrilled to get the call-up. When I got the call from him (coach Jacques Nienaber) I couldn’t wait to tell my parents and my wife, so it’s been great to see the support from my family and friends,” said Moerat.
“My recovery has exceeded my expectations, it was tough but I just wanted to get myself back into the best possible shape that I could and get back to full fitness and playing for the Stormers.
“Thankfully I then got a chance to come back for the URC, where I think we played well. A few results didn’t go our way but I was thrilled that we could get the win at the end of the tour.
“The cherry on top was then being included in the end of year (Springbok) tour squad. I am really grateful for this opportunity and hopefully I can make the most of it if I do get a chance to play.”
Moerat admits that he is feeling fit and strong and believes he is ready to face the extreme physical challenge from the home nations over the end of year tour.
“My body is feeling really good at the moment. It had been about six months since I had last played before my first URC game for the Stormers, so that first week my body was really sore and it was quite an adjustment,” explained Moerat.
“But as the weeks have gone by I managed to play four full games and felt better in each one. It was good to get those minutes under the belt and to have that support and backing from the coaches was nice. So I am feeling really good at the moment and would like to think my neck (injury) is something of the past.”
It was injuries to RG Snyman at Munster and Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg at Montpellier that opened the door for Moerat to get his Springbok call-up and he is eager to take the opportunity afforded to him by those players missing out.
“It is really sad that RG (Snyman) got injured, he’s an exceptional player and I wish him all best and a speedy recovery,” said Moerat.
“But I am just happy to be a part of this group. Hopefully I can get a few minutes on tour and make the most of this opportunity. It is going to be very special to put on the Springbok jersey and a moment I will remember for the rest of my life.”
The tour is set to be a massive learning curve for the ever improving Moerat and he will be looking to take in as much as he can from the experience and build on himself for the future.
He will be aided by having a number of familiar faces in Stormers players in the squad who will help him settle in and know what to expect.
“Over the tour I would like to develop myself, learn how they do things and know what they expect of me as a player. I just want to get through each week and if that opportunity to play does come I want to be ready for it,” admitted Moerat.
“It always helps to have familiar faces around. I am good friends with Damian Willemse and we have played over the years together so it’s nice to have him here as he will let me know what to expect and how things will go over the next couple of weeks, which makes things easier.”