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By Athenkosi Tsotsi

Sports Reporter

Bulls assistant coach Andries Bekker full of praise for ‘smart’ Ruan Nortje

'The one great thing with Ruan is he's very smart, he understands the game. His general knowledge of everything is very good.'

Bulls lock and co-captain Ruan Nortje is one player who has taken his game to the next level this season, improving gradually and putting his name back in Springbok contention.

Despite missing a few games through niggling injuries, Nortje has been impressive when on the field. The Bulls lineout is more secure when he’s a catching outlet and he gives young hookers such as Johan Grobbelaar and Jan-Hendrik Wessels confidence.

Key to Nortje’s improvement has been working with former Springboks and Stormers lock, Andries Bekker, who joined the Bulls as a forwards coach at the start of the pre-season.

With Bekker specialising as a lineout coach and having learned skills coaching from his time in Japan at Kobe Steelers, he was able to pick out areas Nortje needed to work on.

‘We worked on his lineout skill and jumping skills’

Speaking to the media this week, Bekker detailed how it has been working with Nortje and how he has helped him grow as a player this season.

“I think for me, the one great thing with Ruan is he’s very smart, he understands the game. His general knowledge of everything is very good,” Bekker said.

“The things I picked up early in the pre-season was just around a couple of basics, around his lineout skill and jumping skills.

“He’s really smart with option-taking and how we plan around the week. It was just that final basic skills we worked on. He’s not perfect, but he is definitely getting there,” he said.

Another aspect that has helped Nortje grow as a player has been his leadership skills. He was captain last season when the team did not do well, that helped to build his character.

Calm leader

Last season’s development as captain is showing on and off the field this season.

“I do think that one of Ruan’s better attributes is his leadership, he’s calm, smart and clear-headed which makes it a lot easier for us,” Bekker said.

“It has helped him a lot, the positive thing about that is he has players like Marcell Coetzee and Elrigh Louw, who’s been captain for us in different games, around him,” he said.

Nortje is back in the Bok mix after being called up to attend an alignment camp with several others players in Cape Town next month.

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