Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Morne van den Berg keen to walk in the footsteps of Bok hero Ricky Januarie

'My mindset going there is to learn from the players who have already been there. To be a sponge, soak in as much as I can, and to be ready and competitive where I can.'

Lions scrumhalf Morne van den Berg admitted that former Lions and Stormers scrumhalf Ricky Januarie was a major inspiration for him growing up and he will now attempt to walk in his footsteps as he enters the Springbok setup.

Van den Berg was one of six Lions players who were selected for the first Bok alignment camp of the season, to take place in Cape Town at the start of next month, and he will be aiming to stand out among a crowd of top scrumhalves.

He would do well to make a splash like Januarie, who will forever be remembered for helping the Boks make history in New Zealand, with his brilliant individual try against the All Blacks in the 2008 Tri Nations securing their first ever win in Dunedin and breaking a 10 year losing streak in the country.

Januarie-Pretorius combo

“Obviously Fourie du Preez was quite a legend when I was growing up. But I was quite a big Lions supporter. So I loved the Ricky Januarie and Andre Pretorius link-up. So Ricky Januarie was quite the guy when I grew up,” said Van den Berg.

“The chip and chase in Dunedin is still one of my favourite (Springbok) tries until today.”

Ricky Januarie and Bryan Habana
Ricky Januarie and Bryan Habana celebrate victory in the dressing room after the 2008 Tri Nations series match against New Zealand in Dunedin. Picture: Sandra Mu/Getty Images

Van Den Berg was informed of the call-up in a team meeting along with the other selected players and their teammates and admits that it was an exciting day for the whole group, and he is now eager to learn as much as he can from the upcoming camp.

“I was overwhelmed and excited to get the call-up. It has always been a dream, so to get that good news was quite exciting. It was a special day. We had a good reception from the team as well. There was a lot of excitement among the squad,” said Van den Berg.

“I think the competition (at the Lions and Boks) is quite a good thing. So the thing is to just learn where you can and be coachable, and when your opportunity comes be ready.

“My mindset going there is to learn from the players who have already been there. To be a sponge, soak in as much as I can, and to be ready and competitive where I can.”

Hard work starts now

He has always been one of the hardest working members in the Lions setup, putting in extra hours after training and trying to improve his game wherever he can, but Van den Berg knows that the real hard work starts now trying to stay in the Bok fold.

“I think the (long) hours have led up to this. Your skill level has to be at a certain point (to make the Bok setup). I still feel I have a lot more to grow and have so much more potential that I can fill,” explained Van den Berg.

“I am excited to hopefully get into the Springbok squad where I can learn and grow into that potential. It has been a few years of hard work, but there is a lot more hard work to be done, and that is a very exciting thing.

“The environment you get into can help you grow and I think the Springbok environment is obviously excellent. So I am excited to get into that environment, to learn to grow and get even better in my skills, execution and at reading the game.”

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Lions rugby team Springboks (Bokke/Boks)

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