Ruan Nortje. (Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile/Gallo Images)
Ruan Nortje’s meteoric rise towards becoming one of South Africa’s leading second rowers continued on Thursday after he was, perhaps a bit surprisingly, installed as the Bulls’ new full-time captain for the rest of the season.
The 24-year-old, who emerged from relative obscurity to become a pillar of Jake White’s pack, has been roped in to be the influential Marcell Coetzee’s successor after he departed for a sabbatical in Japan.
Coetzee will play for Kobe Steelers over the next few months before returning to Loftus, where he has a contract until 2027.
“It’s an unbelievable privilege to be handed this role. I’ve been really blessed with my achievements this year,” said Nortje, who in mid-year made his Springbok debut against Wales.
“I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve been granted.”
Nortje, who labels himself as a proverbial doer more than a talker, won’t be overburdened by the first major leadership role of his entire career as he has two experienced deputies in Harold Vorster and Johan Goosen.
He can also count on several other teammates in his age category who’ve been added to the wider leadership corps – Elrigh Louw, Johan Grobbelaar – as well as veterans Cornal Hendricks and Nizaam Carr.
“I definitely see myself as the guy that leads by example. I wouldn’t say I don’t talk much, but I’m definitely not going to talk too much either,” said Nortje.
“We have enough leaders in this group to fulfil various roles. It’s an exciting dynamic and a comfort to have trusted men to fall back on.”
Nortje’s appointment also says much about the type of culture White is cultivating in Pretoria, one where age clearly doesn’t automatically translate into rank.
“There’s a massive overall mutual respect within our group,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter how old you are, we’re all playing at the same level. We’re so grateful to the more experienced guys for really mentoring us. It’s really developed us youngsters. It’s a culture we’ll continue to pursue and grow.”
His first assignment as skipper is on Saturday, when the Bulls host Ospreys at home.
Kick-off is at 15:00.