CAPE TOWN – Jan Uys confesses that he is a “bornand-bred” Western Province man.
The 27-year-old lock, though, finds himself at the Bulls at the moment in his storied career, which has seen him operate out of Cape Town, Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) and in France at Pau and Brive.
So how did someone who was schooled at Paul Roos Gymnasium and dreamed of playing for WP and the Stormers end up at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria?
“I was always a born-and-bred WP man. I got a chance to come and play under coach Jake (White), and it was a no-brainer for me. Now I am supporting (a jersey that is) a slightly lighter tone of blue,” Uys said yesterday after starting for the Bulls in their 87-10 romp over Eastern Province last Sunday.
“It was quite an adjustment (for his family), especially for my father – I don’t think I’ve ever heard him shout for the Bulls before, until now.
“That time (at WP) I was Under20, and captain of the Under-21s, I could still stay at WP for two years. But then I thought it would be better for me to play more senior rugby, because there I was sitting under Eben (Etzebeth) and them.
“It didn’t work out like that at the Kings, as they were liquidated. That is when I took the opportunity to go to France.”
The Kings’ liquidation led to Uys moving to French club Pau initially, and then later Brive, where he was changed from a No 5 lock to No 4.
That is now the role he fulfils at the Bulls, and he is keen to challenge for a starting spot, having had to play second-fiddle to Jason Jenkins, Walt Steenkamp and Sintu Manjezi so far – although he came off the bench in the triumphant Currie Cup final.
“I must say I grew up a lot in a rugby sense (in France). You must be hard to play for Brive … In France itself, it’s not fast rugby necessarily, but it’s very physical.
“It’s almost like every team has locks of 130kg or 135kg, and sometimes even No 8s of 140kg. Then you have to stand your ground,” Uys said.
“I just have to work hard (for a Bulls starting berth), and there are a lot of small things that I can improve on. There isn’t one specific thing that, if I had to do that, then I would start.”
Uys, who stands at 1.99m tall and weighs around 120kg, will continue to push his case in the Preparation Series on Wednesday, when the
Bulls will be out to avenge last year’s defeat to the Pumas.
“I think it’s just a mentality thing. In the previous game, we trained together for two days as a young group then, and now we have a bit more time together,” he said.
“I believe 100 percent it won’t be the same as the last time we played in Mbombela. Just mentally, we must believe we are physically ready – we must take them on upfront and soften them up.”