11 March 2023
“I’m someone who always tries to give 100% to the team, week in, week out, but it’s quite difficult to say overall,” Benhard Janse van Rensburg answered when posed with the question of how he sees himself as a London Irish player.
“I try to stay as positive as possible, and try to be that lifting voice and inspiration to someone when things might not be going well.”
Since signing on for Irish ahead of the 2021/22 campaign, Janse van Rensburg has become one of the Club’s most durable outlets through all venues, seasons and competitions.
He played the second highest number of games in the Irish squad across his maiden season in green (29), and has continued his reputation as a dependable squad member this term.
With 19 rounds of Premiership action now surpassed, no other Exile has managed as many league minutes throughout the squad this season (1,269).
An ever-present role within the matchday 23 is something the 26-year-old desires every week, who aims to lead by example every time he takes to the field.
“For me, it’s to be that player to lead by example and that others can look to as inspiration.
“My English isn’t too good so I’m not the best with words, which my actions are very important.
“I use my days as a fly-half to be a distributor in the back line and sometimes be the primary ball carrier, and I also work together with the forwards to try and get them on the front foot.
“I always look to create space in general play to try and get the ball to our full-backs and wingers.”
One of the most distinguishable aspects of the midfielder’s all-encompassing approach as a player is the physicality he uses on both sides of the ball.
Attaining the joint-ninth highest turnovers won tally this term, the South African has also made the second-most tackles amongst Premiership backs this season (141), second only to Northampton Saints’ Fraser Dingwall (155) (Paddy Jackson has made the fourth-most with 111).
Janse van Rensburg’s burgeoning desire to give his all as an Irish player forms the basis of the belligerent playing style, in his eyes.
“I think my physicality comes from wanting to give everything and empty the tank every game, being someone who puts in a big hit or a big carry can lift other guys up around you during a game.
“I try and work on everything every day when I train, there’s always a chance for improvement in every aspect of my game; passing, jackalling, tackling, everything!
“Every time I train, I try and better myself.”
This weekend, the Pretoria native resumes his duties in the starting XV for Irish against Sale Sharks, although this time, adorning the 13 shirt.
It is a position that Janse van Rensburg has played seven times to date, four of which in the 2022/23 season, scoring four of his 15 tries as an Irish player from outside centre.
He explains how he and Rory Jennings have dovetailed to form a unique midfield partnership in the heart of the Irish backline this year.
“It’s not the same as playing at 12, but I’ve always said that since I started playing rugby that I’ll be happy playing anywhere in the team, just as long as I play.
“It’s about whatever is best for the team, that I’ll do, and I’ve been really enjoying my time with Jenno [Rory Jennings].
“With Paddy [Jackson] and Jenno as fly-halves, their distribution is really, really good.
“After playing 12 for a while, it can take some time getting used to 13 but I’m very comfortable playing in either position.
“You have to make more defensive reads up against outside backs that a strong ball carriers with good feet, so you have to be fast and not find yourself out of position.
“On that first phase as 12, I try and carry the ball to get us on the front foot, but at 13, I’ll be more involved in the later phases to get others into space.”
Janse van Rensburg’s stats only fortify his standing as one of Irish’s most reliable offensive channels this year; recording the fourth-highest gain line carrying tally in the league with 75 made, the joint-highest try assists in the squad with five alongside Paddy Jackson.
His 134 carries are the most in the squad and 11th-highest in the division, with 161 metres post-contact the most in the current Exiles squad also.
As well as strong running intent, Irish’s multifaceted talent has been utilised in many guises this term across the park, including the set-piece, first seen away to Leicester Tigers.
He also slotted the conversion to Cillian Redmond’s score in last year’s EPCR Challenge Cup fixture against Saracens – is there anything he can’t do?!
“I grew up playing fly-half and done plenty of kicking at goal, and I still always have my routine of warming up for kicks, even though I don’t kick too much at goal now.
“Standing in at lineouts is something different, and I actually like doing it!
“It’s fun for me to do as much as I can on the field, if we’re a loose forward down and I have to scrum, that’s something I’m fine to do.
“I enjoy doing stuff that maybe other backs don’t do on the field, I always say yes to when I’m asked to go into the set-piece and not a lot of people expect it!”
His versatility, amongst other admirable qualities, is what has sprung Janse van Rensburg into the consciousness of the Exile Nation as a firm favourite amongst the supporter base.
Recognised with the Premiership Rugby Player of the Month, the two-year Irish mainstay has duly been given his praise in the wider sphere of English rugby too.
It’s not all work for Janse van Rensburg, however, who is currently studying study BCom Management Accounting online, as well as being a keen golfer.
“I like to play [golf] on the off days, it’s a little bit tough if you have to walk the 18 holes!
“We have a few boys and coaches that are involved in a competition,” he divulged.
“I won’t name names yet, maybe at the end of the season when we know a little bit more on the standings.”
One to keep an eye on upon conclusion for the remainder of the season, perhaps, but Janse van Rensburg is embracing the fan favourite tag, and is thankful for the support he and the team have received.
“It’s nice to be liked by fans, I give my everything every game and try to make it as fun and enjoyable as possible for supporters to come and follow us every week.
“Their support makes a big difference for us, and I know with more consistent winning rugby, our support will only increase.
“In our tough games they have an influence, having them voices behind you in tight moments gives you a little bit more energy and pressures the other team knowing we have the support behind us too.”
Away from the golf course, matters more pressing await the centre and his teammates in Sale Sharks at the Gtech Community Stadium this Sunday, a side also sprinkled talent from the Rainbow Nation.
Janse van Rensburg has high hopes for a prosperous run-in for the Club, starting this weekend against Alex Sanderson’s side.
“It will be a massive challenge for us as a team, they’re a big, strong team with a lot of South African influence.
“The game is big for us because the log is so tight at the moment, it’s up to ourselves is we want to push on this season and compete at the top.
“We have four tough league games left, but our advantage is that three of them are at home and that is massive for London Irish.
“If we can come away with a few wins against these teams, the likes of Sale, Northampton, Saracens and Exeter, it will put us in a spot that this Club hasn’t been in for a long time.
“We want to keep it in our hands for the remainder of the season, and to do it in front of our fans will mean a lot.”
Book your tickets to this Sunday’s clash with Sale here!