Ex-Kings player ‘will be a Bok’

HUGE PRESENCE: Former EP Kings player Lizo Gqoboka sets off on a run. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
HUGE PRESENCE: Former EP Kings player Lizo Gqoboka sets off on a run. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

Bulls coach delighted to have signed prop Gqoboka

PROP Lizo Gqoboka, described as a diamond by Bulls coach Nollis Marais, says his decision to leave the Kings had nothing to do with the union’s financial fiasco.

Gqoboka was among the first in an exodus of players from the Kings amid the cash crisis which saw players and staff going for months without being paid their salaries.

But the loosehead stressed that his move to Pretoria was not related to the crisis.

“Even if the financial difficulties did not exist at the Kings I would have still made the move.

“It was not about the money. I was quite fine – I had money to sustain me in my savings and I had investments. I was going to survive regardless. The move was a pure rugby decision,” Gqoboka said yesterday, which marked a week since the 25year-old Ntabankulu-born frontrower arrived at Loftus.

He was heavily involved in training in the blistering heat of the capital city, at the forefront of an intense session.

“It was not easy for everyone,” he continued. “It was really tough times to have players, management and staff not getting paid.

“It was always tough to go out and play when, even if you have been paid, you know that some of your teammates and coaches have not been paid.

“The entire ordeal produced another element to my own character – I remained positive throughout, and that was helped by the way we united and continued to play in the Currie Cup.”

Marais raved about the player, predicting he would turn up in the green and gold of the national team next year.

“Lizo is already making a huge difference,” Marais said of his new recruit.

“He is an exceptional player. He is the first player that I signed after taking over.

“I have brought a diamond here to Loftus.

“I think he is definitely going to play for the Boks next year,” Marais said about the prop who was, on a couple of occasions, invited to be part of Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer’s training squad.

“He’s a brilliant rugby player – his attitude, his work ethic.

“I definitely think my first signing was a brilliant signing.”

Gqoboka said he wanted to focus firmly on his maiden season with the Bulls, cherish playing under Marais and catch the eye of the national selectors.

“I’m really enjoying myself here,” he said from Loftus.

“The training is quite intense . . . It is very clear that the Bulls don’t want to just compete, but to dominate. So we have to put in the hard work now. I was attracted to the Bulls because of the style of play that coach Nollis has introduced. He allows me to be myself. I can side-step, pass and enjoy myself.

“At the same time I should not forget my primary job as a scrummager. Everything else is a bonus.”

Representing the country is also high on his agenda. “That is definitely a dream – to become a Springbok.

“I’ll certainly work towards that, but the Bulls come first right now.

“My focus is on Super Rugby, and only once I do well there will the possibility of the Boks come. I think the move to the Bulls was a step in the right direction.”

Marais has also lured winger Luther Obi from the Kings, and the 22-year-old will start training with the Bulls today.

Negotiations for the signatures of loose-forwards Tim Agaba and Thembelani Bholi, as well as utility back Sylvian Mahuza – all from the Kings – are still ongoing.

Marais seems to have Agaba as the main target.

“A lot of the other guys we have our sights on have a lot of decisions to make about their futures, ‘am I going to the Stormers or the Lions or Bulls?’,” the coach said.

“I believe a bright decision for Tim Agaba would be a Bulls move. If you know how I want to play and how I think, he’ll be one helluva player at the Bulls.

“Hopefully he’ll make the right decision and come to the Bulls.”

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