Blitzboks star Werner Kok is making the most of his short-term stint with French club Toulouse. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
Kok joined the Top 14 champions in July as a World Cup joker, which means he will bolster the team while other players are away at the global tournament in Japan.
The 26-year-old will return to the Blitzboks in November ahead of the 2019-20 World Rugby Sevens Series campaign and hopes to go to the Olympics in Tokyo next year.
Kok, an outside centre and wing, had last played fifteens for Western Province in the 2016 Currie Cup and he admits making the transition from sevens was ‘a little bit tougher than I thought’ it would be.
‘There isn’t a lot of space on the field [compared to sevens] and the game is very structured,’ Kok tells RugbyRocks.com. ‘In sevens, if you are close to the ruck, you always clean and make the tackle up.
‘It’s a little different for the backs [at Toulouse]. They do clean once or twice but then have to get out and organise the defensive line. With tackling, they make a tackle and then get back up and away from the area, whereas in sevens you make a tackle and get ready for the next one.’
Kok, who was used as a substitute in Toulouse’s first two matches of the Top 14 campaign, says he enjoys their attacking approach.
‘They play a very expansive game and the wings get the ball, so it’s great to be part of a team that plays running rugby.’
Kok says the pace of the Top 14 is quicker than the Currie Cup, although he can’t compare it to Super Rugby, which he has yet to take part in.
‘You have to be on-form with your defence in the Top 14, because the guys here run really good lines. And when they pick up the pace of the game, you have to keep up.
‘I’ve also had to adapt to the kicking game. It’s really something different [from sevens] to have to chase back again and make sure to cover the space for the kicks.’
While the Currie Cup has become a developmental, second-tier tournament in South African rugby due to Super Rugby, the Top 14 Bouclier de Brennus (shield) remains the biggest prize in French rugby.
‘The Top 14 is huge here,’ says Kok. ‘The fans are amazing, you always get a lot of people watching you in the stands. It’s been a great experience and hopefully I’ll get to come back to France one day.’