Fully fit again following the Achilles injury that prevented him from featuring for the Ospreys after his move from Super Rugby outfit Stormers last autumn, De Kock Steenkamp is raring to go.
The 28-year old lock was added to the squad last year to add his considerable experience and physical presence to a young squad, but after suffering the injury shortly after his arrival in Ospreylia, the lineout specialist wants to make up for lost time.
“I’ve been here a while now but I haven’t been able to show the guys what I’m all about yet” Steenkamp said.
“I want to play my part for the Ospreys, and I want to reward the coaches for the faith they’ve shown in me.
“It’s really tough, when you come to a new country and into a new squad for the first time, with the season already underway, so to get injured before even playing a game, that makes it really difficult.
“Being completely out of the picture for six months, you have to deal with that and work hard with the physios, but it is always in your mind that people will question why are you here.
“After that first few weeks, once you are able to get past that, you can start to settle in the environment, get to spend time with the boys and get to know them, and then it starts to get easier.”
After slogging his way through a season of rehab, Steenkamp was handed back to the coaches by the medical team at the start of May and declared fit for action. However, with the campaign at a crucial stage, he wasn’t rushed back into action as the coaches opted to allow him to focus on pre-season and being ready to roll this September, a decision he was fully in agreement with.
“It’s not just about being fit” he added.
“You need to know everything, the systems, the calls and you need to be on top of it. I was fit for the last few weeks, but when you look at it, the Connacht game and the Munster game, they were big matches. I would have loved to play but I understand the reason why the coaches thought it was best to save me for pre-season and for this year.
“I’ve been a long time without rugby and I wouldn’t have been ready but now, with a full pre-season under my belt, hopefully I can start to make up for lost time.
“Everything is under my control now. The medics have got me to where I am and if I stay fit then there are no excuses for me now. I have to play and I have to play well for the team.”
As an interested observer on the sidelines since his arrival at the end of September, Steenkamp has been impressed by what he’s seen from the Ospreys to date.
“It’s clear the pride that people have in the jersey. That rubs off on anyone in the environment. It’s a good culture. I like the way we defend. Our defence is very good and I think that shows what it means to the team, how people care about each other. We play a good brand of attacking rugby as well. I don’t think it’s a typical northern hemisphere slow style of rugby. It’s exciting rugby.
“The way I see it now is I just want to be fit and ready to play rugby for the Ospreys. I’m desperate to make the team and get that jersey on, I’ve been waiting such a long time, and really want to play my part this season. Then I can truly call myself an Osprey.”