Back to his best
Victor ‘Strand’ Kruger, captain of the NWU Pukke side that shocked Tukkies 26-23 Monday night in Potchefstroom, doesn’t make bold statements.
It’s not in his nature. He is neither boastful, nor egotistical or conceited. What he is is a 1.99m young man that completed his LL.B degree at the end of last year and will one day make a fine lawyer.
Thus, when he says that the rugby fraternity hasn’t seen the best of him yet, you take note and you listen. Kruger was at his influential best against the defending Varsity Cup champions, delivering what many hail as his best performance since his superlative display against Shimlas two seasons ago in Bloemfontein.
To understand the significance of that performance in the Free State, one must first understand the psyche of the bruising lock. Imbedded in him is a sense of commitment and responsibility. He knows that the career of a rugby player is a fleeting one, and he refuses to let his undoubted intelligence go to waste. He made a choice to separate the two commitments; Victor the scholar and Strand the player.
That night in Bloem the world saw Strand on a rampage in a performance that he would come close to, but not quite emulate again. Monday night in front of his home crowd he again didn’t emulate it, he surpassed it. For the first time in his career, Kruger did not have the ‘burden’ of studies to bear (he has enrolled at the NWU-Puk Potchefstroom Business School for a diploma in business management) and it showed. Victor ‘Strand’ Kruger had arrived, focused and divided within himself no more.
“You know, I told the guys that for the first time that I can remember rugby is my sole focus. Completing an LL.B takes a lot of hard work and dedication. I had to adapt my training regime to fit in with my studies. Now, I can get to the field an hour early, I can put in that bit of extra time and I can feel it has elevated my game to the next level,” says the behemoth from Gordonsbaai.
“I feel that I haven’t reached my peak yet, there is so much more I can give and I feel that I owe that to the NWU Puk.”
Regarding the monumental win against Tukkies, Kruger believes it was the effort that his side put into their pre-season preparations that paid dividends on the Fanie.
“We started training on 1 November and are reaping the rewards of that now. We’ve got a host of new faces in the squad and I believe that they infused the side with a lot of energy. We can only get better from here.”
It was a game of two halves. In the first, the NWU Puk managed to put 24 point on the board whilst conceding none. In the second, Tukkies put the pedal down, racking up 23 points in the process. Was it not for their wayward goal kicking and a penalty from NWU Pukke’s Gerhard Nortier, the results could have swayed the visitor’s way.
Kruger acknowledges this: “Look, Tukkies is a great side. We knew that it was always going to be a hard, physical encounter. We said to ourselves that we needed to take them on upfront if we were going to succeed, and in the first halve we did just that. We had a few concentration lapses in the second that really cost us, and we could have been better in converting opportunities to points, but all credit to them. I thought they played exceptionally well after the break and they showed what a class outfit they are. They staged a phenomenal comeback.”
That they did, and so did Kruger. The Man of the Match on Monday night will play a nigh invaluable role if the NWU Puk is to claim its first silverware in the Varsity Cup. And, he feels obliged to do so.