Surprise call clinched Potgieter move
March 10, 2014
The big hitting star was quickly welcomed into the Waratah family © Getty Images
Jacques Potgieter has so far proved one of the best South African signings the Waratahs have gained in several years, however, only nine months ago the big hitting forward was all but heading to England for the English Premiership.
Out of favour at the Bulls and Springboks, Potgieter had all but signed with the Saracens, however, a surprise call from a former agent changed his plans.
"He said, 'If there was a Super Rugby team you'd play for if you could, who would it be?"' Potgieter told Fairfax Media. "I said I would only go to the Waratahs and he said, 'Michael Cheika is going to phone you in 30 minutes'.
"I didn't believe him -- it sounds like something that happens in the movies -- but Michael phoned me. We had a good honest chat with each other and I told him then and there I would come."
An interesting choice considering the relative lack of success previous South African players enjoyed at NSW, with the most recent recruit Sarel Pretorius earning little game time under former coach Michael Foley. But his knowledge of Cheika's success at Leinster clinched the deal and has so far payed dividends.
"A lot of my mates played under Cheika when he was at [Irish province] Leinster, so I knew of him and I knew he was the guy who made a difference at the Waratahs," he said. "I liked the style of rugby they played last year and I thought if Michael can make such a big difference in one year then I saw exciting times ahead. If he's going to have the team for another two or three years they'll only go from strength to strength."
Arriving in Sydney via Japanese club the Fukuoka Sanix Blues just in time for the season, Potgieter had little time for nerves to settle in before his new teammates welcomed him to the club.
"There was a little bit of nerves, mostly because I'm pretty hard on myself and I didn't want to disappoint anyone," he said. "But since I've got here all the boys have been so welcoming and made me part of the Waratahs family very quickly. I've settled in very well and it feels like I've been playing with these boys for about 10 years."
The home-crowd reception was the cherry on top. Waratahs fans watched Potgieter and Wycliff Palu light it up in their team's 32-5 demolition of Queensland.
"It's happened a couple of times but I didn't expect it here, because Australian crowds are usually -- nothing bad -- but they come there, support the game, and go home," he said. "So it was a surprise for me and it helped me so much because it makes me feel welcome, and appreciated. It makes me want to play better for them."
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