Twenty-six-year-old Jakobus “Kowie” Roos is the latest Bulls player to be plucked from the union’s club system to make a potential Currie Cup debut this weekend.
Last year, Jakobus “Kowie” Roos was the star of a short Facebook video compiled by his club, Pretoria Rugby Club, where he was asked about his role in the team.
A genial man, the 26-year-old tighthead prop conjured up a mischievous smile: “I’m basically here to hurt the opposing players … within the rules, of course.”
He is a proverbial monster – a 1.96m behemoth who tips the scales at 142kg, a guy you definitely don’t want to run into let alone try and tackle.
Yet it’s been a five-year slog for the former Hoërskool Pretoria-Noord pupil to reach this unlikely potential breakthrough in his playing career.
“Kowie is a unique athlete,” former Bulls hooker cum flanker Jannie Brooks, nowadays an accomplished biokineticist and mentor for a host of young players in the broader Pretoria area, told Sport24.
“I was actually just busy with a session where I told the youngsters of Kowie’s story. He’s a classic example of a player whose work ethic sets him apart and a reminder that you can create opportunities for yourself if you just keep improving yourself.”
Indeed, Roos arrived at Brooks’ now legendary outdoor gymnasium in Waterkloof about five years ago weighing 156kg and on a mission to shed those extra pounds which – to his eternal credit – he admitted from the outset was holding him back as a player.
In his final Varsity Shield campaign for the TUT Vikings in 2020, the front-rower was already 10kg lighter and is now in tip-top shape.
“You can’t categorise Kowie like you’d do other rugby players. He’s a big guy with a big bone structure,” said Brooks.
“If he were to lost another 10kg he could easily be playing as a lock, but he’s a prop at heart and that’s why we focused on conditioning him in the appropriate manner.
“There’s nothing Kowie can’t do physically.”
Indeed, there’s a running joke – borne out of pure admiration – that whenever Roos starts appearing under the trees leading towards the gym, others proudly proclaim that Pretoria’s own version of Marvel’s The Incredible Hulk is approaching.
“Kowie is a machine. Even though his physical dimensions appear big on paper, his body fat percentage is only 13%. That’s absolutely incredible,” said Brooks.
“He would do 50 burpees with the utmost ease and he bench-presses in excess of 150kg. That’s one of the reasons I believe the Bulls have picked him for the Currie Cup this weekend. His fitness is top notch.”
When the Bulls’ Carlton League – the union’s premier club competition – resumed last year, Roos was part of a team that endured a difficult time in terms of results, but he made enough of an impression to receive a call-up to train at Loftus at the start of the year.
Told of Roos’ bold job description in the social media post, Currie Cup head coach Gert Smal gave a wry smile.
“That’s what we’re here for too,” said the former Springbok and Ireland assistant coach.
“We continually want to see players graduate from club level. Kowie has illustrated that if you work hard, there are opportunities in our system. I’m really looking forward to his development and how he handles being granted an opportunity at this level.”
Unsurprisingly, Smal – despite only working with him for two months to date – has been impressed by Roos’ relish for sheer hard work.
“His size is an asset obviously,” he said.
“But one of the most important traits I look out for in a player is work ethic. Any player that boasts that is going to get somewhere. Kowie has proven he’s got exactly that.”
With questions about his fitness now very clearly irrelevant, Brooks believes his “student” should just concentrate on his rugby “education”.
“I’m so happy that Kowie’s been able to mingle and learn from some really top class team-mates at Loftus. I’m not always sure he’s been in the right environments in terms of learning about the game itself,” he said.
“In fact, I told him he had to be ready and adopt the right mindset. Going from being one of the best performers at a club that lost all of its matches in the Carlton League to training at the Bulls is a definite leap.
“But his selection for the weekend will give him a massive boost. It shows the Bulls coaches see his potential and I’m confident he can make a name for himself.”
Griquas have been warned…
Kick-off in Kimberley is at 14:30.