I always wanted to be a Bok admits Australia captain David Pocock

David PocockWith under 12 months to go until the Lions tour Australia, it has become abundantly clear that the tourists’ success will hinge on finding a way to neutralise David Pocock.
Wales – who on present form will provide the bulk of the touring party – thought they had a plan but while Sam Warbuton may rule the roost of opensides in Europe, he was comprehensively left in the shade in the first Test by Pocock, who won five turnovers.
Called Bam Bam – the Flintstones’ indefatigable enfant terrible – by his teammates, ‘a freak’  by his coach Robbie Deans, and ‘a cheat’, the ultimate sign of a successful openside, by opponents, the 23-year-old is likely to define the Lions series as George Smith did 12 years ago.
Pocock watched that series as a 13-year-old in Zimbabwe – and never aspired to be pull on the Green & Gold.
Instead his idol was Bobby Skinstad and his heart was set on representing the Springboks and it was only following political upheaval in his homeland that Pocock moved to Australia in 2002.
There he ended up in the same school side as a certain Quade Cooper, originally as an inside centre. But it was once he switched to the flank that he began his inexorable rise, which sees him as this year’s Wallabies captain and next year’s potential Lion slayer.
He said: “I remember watching the 2001 series from Zimbabwe. It was very physical but there was a lot of good rugby played.
“Jason Robinson had just come onto the scene in Union and I was a massive fan of his.
“I would have never imagined I might be part of the next series back then. When I was seven or eight all I wanted to do was play rugby for the Springboks.
“Bobby Skinstad was my idol, I loved everything he did. Being from Zimbabwe he was a real inspiration for me.”
Even  a year away, the Lions are causing excitement in Australia.
Pocock says:  “You can see already how much the Lions means to people here.  At club level there is a lot of talk about it, every State is excited about what it is going to do for rugby in Australia so there is definitely a buzz about what is going to happen.
“I don’t see this Wales series as a precursor for that. A lot can happen in 12 months and I’m sure when the Wallabies and the British Lions come together they will both be pretty different although there will be a core group of players, so it’s important to win.”
Pocock had a moment of reflection last week that left him amazed.
He explained:  “It’s crazy how far I have come.  I was talking to my mum and dad in Brisbane and they were saying how it hasn’t even been ten years that I’ve been in Australia.
“I have so much to thank them for in terms of giving me opportunities. I definitely got my work ethic from them.
“There is always one or two at school who are freakishly talented that probably don’t have the work ethic or drive to succeed.
“I wouldn’t say I would have as much natural talent as someone like Quade, so for me it was more hard work than having an amazing step.”
Unlike his schoolmate, Pocock shuns the limelight, but if ever he decided to enter Hollywood then he would be tailormade for a remake of Terminator.
Much like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character, Pocock just keeps coming no matter what is thrown at him.
Five days after suffering from hypothermia in the aftermath of the Wallabies bruising defeat to Scotland, Pocock delivered a masterclass in jackal play against Wales which again left him battered and bruised.
Undoubtedly his 5ft 11in stature helps him to get low at breakdowns, as does his willingness to push the boundaries of referees’ patience, but when asked to explain his mastery of the breakdown Pocock attributes his success to his intensive training regime.
He said: “I think my strength plays a big part, as does my flexibility but those are things I have always had to work on.
“I played in the backlines throughout my school rugby until year 12 when I was 16 or 17 when I started going down the gym a lot.
“I think it is an urban myth I am squatting 220kg but I just try to remain as strong as possible, given all the recovery that is required.
“There is a whole bunch of other stuff, doing yoga is a big part of it and having regular flexibility sessions.
“It is pretty funny to watch these massive guys doing yoga but it definitely helps with the flexibility.
“On the pitch it is about picking the right moment to go in but when you go in, you go in hard.”
Most of Pocock’s spare time is dedicated to his charity, Eightytwenty Vision, which helps Zimbabwean communities become self sufficient.
And it is obvious Pocock gets just as much pride from making a small difference in his homeland as he does in leading his adopted country.
“I am not the sort of person who lives and breathes rugby,” he said. “I enjoy getting away from it, spending time with my mates and working with my charity.
“There is 80 per cent unemployment in Zimbabwe so that gives you a snapshot of the country but it is still has a very special place in my heart.
“The work is challenging, definitely rewarding. Over the past three-and-half years we have started to see some progress.
“The community is starting to get really excited, seeing the possibility of change and seeing it implemented.
But rugby is still his shop window.
“I love playing my rugby and doing well for the team.  When you get recognised it always means something, especially when your efforts are nominated by your team-mates and peers.
“Being captain is a big honour but I wouldn’t say I aspired to it.
“It isn’t something that I set out to achieve, it’s something that people ask you to do.
“Obviously there is a different sense of appreciation for what we are doing in Zimbabwe.
“It’s not just a game of rugby over there.”
DANIEL SCHOFIELD

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