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Muller sees the lighter side of life

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Johann Muller’s rapid elevation to the Springbok captaincy has caught many rugby followers by surprise – none more so than the man himself, who even found time for a chuckle this week in what is shaping up as his toughest rugby assignment yet.

The 27-year-old Sharks lock was officially handed the Bok leadership duties on Wednesday, after plenty of speculation during the week that he would be named as SA’s 53rd Test skipper as a replacement for the injured Bob Skinstad.

“Look, if you had told me two years ago that I’d be playing for the Boks I would have laughed at you,” said Muller at the end of a very, very long day of media commitments.

“But if you had told me then that I would be captaining the Boks against the All Blacks in a Tri-Nations Test match in Christchurch… I … would have thought you were completely crazy!”

Really? Crazy?

“I don’t mean to sound dramatic,” added Muller, “but two years ago I was playing in a struggling Sharks side and, as a result, not many of our guys were in the Bok mix…

“[But] that all changed when Dickie [Muir] arrived; he’s made a massive difference and it’s given guys like myself the opportunity to play at the highest level, something I’m very thankful for.”

Well, Mr Muller, not only have you reached the highest level in a rugby-mad nation, you have actually managed to eclipse that by being handed an opportunity to lead your team out in a Test match against the mighty All Blacks – in New Zealand.

“It was a huge surprise when Jake came to me and offered me the captaincy,” said Muller.

“I guess it’s sort of happened by accident, with Bob being out injured, but for me it’s a massive honour and an even bigger responsibility, too.”

But honour and responsibility aside, Muller remains fully aware of what lies ahead for his team, ‘affectionately’ dubbed the ‘B-Team’ Boks by friend and foe alike.

“I’d be lying if I said it would be easy,” he said, “I mean, we haven’t won in New Zealand since 1998.

“But we got written off last week and very nearly won that match. You should never lose a match being 17-0 up, but let me tell you, we lost that match more than they won it. It was definitely a case of inexperience shining through, but the guys learnt a massive lesson out there and they won’t make the same mistakes twice.

“Guys like Bismarck, Jannie, Peter Grant and Waylon Murray haven’t played five Tests between them, but us South Africans love nothing more than being the underdogs and proving people wrong. We thrive on it.”

By Howard Kahn 365 Digital

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