Springbok and Bulls prop Lizo Gqoboka believes he has set a great platform this year to achieve bigger goals next season.
Lizo Gqoboka has recently returned back home following his first international tour with the Springboks. He made an appearance off the bench for South Africa during the 31-31 draw against the Barbarians in London last weekend.
The 26-year-old front-rower, who also played for South Africa ‘A’ against the England Saxons in June, said he had a great experience on and off the field.
“I’ve been involved in the national squad before, but I definitely gained a lot more this time. It was my first tour to the UK, which was a good eye-opener for me,” Gqoboka told MyPlayers. “I entered training knowing what the coaches expected of me. I really enjoyed the standard of rugby and culture that I experienced with the Springboks. I felt welcomed in the group and the senior players encouraged me to enjoy every moment.
“Although we didn’t get the win, we had some good moments as a young team. We did well to fight back during the final stages. Coming off the bench, I was happy with my contribution.
“The players also bonded during the week when we had some off-time. We got to do some shopping in Oxford Street and visited some tourist attractions. This added something nice to the camaraderie among the players. It was great making new friendships.”
Gqoboka added that there are a few exciting developments brewing within the national squad.
“Between the coaches and the players, there’s great desire to improve. Coach Allister Coetzee and his management are working hard to drive us in the right direction with one collective push,” explained Gqoboka. “The senior guys, like captain Adriaan Strauss, are also motivating the players. They ensure every player understands that they deserve their spot in the national team and we must make the most of every opportunity. As a team, we also need to trust the process. We know the rewards will come.”
Gqoboka will now shift his focus to his second season with the Bulls, having made the move from the Kings at the start of 2016. He’s represented the Bulls during Super Rugby and the Currie Cup this year, and hopes to add more value in 2017.
“Moving to the Bulls has been a big learning curve for me. They’re a successful team that has won big titles over the years, including Super Rugby trophies. They’re expected to win every game. Playing for the Bulls definitely comes with more pressure,” explained Gqoboka.
“It’s great that I’m surrounded by good coaches and team-mates. As a member of the Bulls family, I find myself in a positive environment. I’ve gained a lot during Super Rugby and the Currie Cup, especially during the recent semi-final and final.
“The coaches back the players to play with freedom within the team structures, which is exciting. The players are enjoying the game plan.”
From an individual perspective, Gqoboka wants to achieve higher honours next season.
“First and foremost, I want to add to the Bulls growth and success during Super Rugby. We have a great young team and we have the potential to go far during the tournament,” said Gqoboka. “I also hope to feature more regularly for the Springboks. I want to earn my place to represent my country and play more Tests.”
By Gareth Duncan