TOKYO, 23 Oct - South Africa are known for their power in the scrum, but they have also proved to be masters of the lineout in Japan. They boast a 100 per cent success rate at the World Cup, having won 57 consecutive throw-ins.
A lot of that is down to second-row Lood de Jager, above, the man who provides brains and brawn for the Springboks’ pack. It should be no surprise the Boks are so adept at getting things spot on at the set-piece, however, given that university-educated De Jager is clearly a quick study.
It is only six years ago that the 26-year-old was playing rugby for North-West University in Potchefstroom, which is where he was spotted by the Free State Cheetahs, who gave him his big breakthrough into senior rugby in 2013.
He was a Springbok within 12 months and is now one of the key components of that high-functioning lineout unit.
"I like the lineout," he told World Rugby. "It’s a passion of mine so I don’t see it as a chore or as work, I just see it as something I enjoy.
"Monday and Tuesday you look at the lineout and discuss what you want to do against the opposition and what they do. It’s a lot of analysing, a lot of research, but I like it.
"Some teams complicate the lineout a lot whereas we keep it simple. We have a lot of options but they’re simple options.”
De Jager’s rise may have been swift – assuming he plays against Wales this weekend he will win his 44th cap – but it has not come as a shock to one of the men who shaped his career.
Jacques du Plessis, his coach at school in Springs, near Johannesburg, told the local Advertiser newspaper: "We had a bunch of talented players... but he definitely stood out. He was very intelligent and determined. He got many offers from other prestigious schools, but decided to stay with us, and I think that shows great character.
"He was not only a great athlete, he also excelled academically."
De Lager has certainly been excelling on the field in Japan. Having missed selection for the first game against New Zealand, he was named Player of the Match in South Africa’s 57-3 victory over Namibia for an all-action display in which he made 15 carries, 42 metres, beat five defenders and made five tackles. He was also instrumental in the quarter-final win over Japan, winning five lineouts and making 14 tackles, the second-most in the match.
Now he will be hoping to teach Wales a lesson in Tokyo on Sunday night and book a place in the final.
"I think I was a late bloomer at school," he added. "Then (coach) Naka Drotske gave me an opportunity at the Cheetahs, and here I am."