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By Athenkosi Tsotsi

Sports Reporter

In-form Bulls No 9 Embrose Papier on Boks return: ‘If it comes, it comes’

"It was tough at the start of 2019 because everyone was asking me why am I not in the mix (with Springboks) or playing that much."

Bulls scrumhalf Embrose Papier says he is not paying too much attention to returning to the Springboks fold, insisting it will come at the right time.

The fast-paced scrumhalf has been one of the standout players in South Africa in recent times with his performances for the Bulls in the United Rugby Championship and Champions Cup massively influential.

His displays had the majority of the rugby fraternity expecting him to return to the Springboks’ system, with even his mentor at the Bulls, Jake White saying he hoped Papier would get an opportunity to play Test rugby because he’s been in such good form.

Many were shocked to not see his name in the Springboks alignment camp squad.

Papier won seven Boks caps in 2018 under Rassie Erasmus during his first stint as coach, however, he has missed out since then, having to watch from the outside as the Boks won the 2019 and 2023 Rugby World Cups.

‘Took Boks snub on the chin’

That rejection was hard on Papier, but it has turned out to be a blessing in disguise as he has honed his skills and is living up to the potential he showed as a schoolboy.

“It was tough at the start of 2019 because everyone was asking me why I am not in the mix (with Springboks) or playing that much,” Papier said when speaking to The Citizen.

“I think I dealt with it quite well. I just took it day by day. I have been working hard over the past two years on my basics. I also have a big support system, my family and fiancé. I’m taking it day by day as it comes.

“We have a team at the Bulls, we have a structure, and for me, I’m just focusing on the game plan every week. At the moment, I’m just focusing on the Bulls and if it (a Bok call-up) comes, it comes,” he said.

Reaching peak levels

At 26, Papier is more experienced, and it shows on the field; he is still lightning fast and is playing with gusto and precision. The coming of age factor and the system the Bulls have in place have helped Papier reach peak levels. 

“Over the years, I have gained experience in my game; when to make the game fast or when to make the game slow, just to manage the game. Coach Chris Rossouw and coach Jake have helped me a lot, just to chat with me and see where I find myself in my game and what my role is in the team. It’s experience and coming of age.

“For me, it’s about improving on the small stuff like my conditioning, passing, kicking, and game management and how to handle the pressure in big games and drive the guys,” Papier said.

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