Schalk Brits has praised the "unbelievable heart" of Pote Human, saying the Bulls coach is at the core of the hooker's career-best form in Super Rugby.
Brits returned to South Africa after retiring from rugby in May 2018, when he said he was ready to simply enjoy "beer and biltong". South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus coaxed him into returning to the game almost immediately, calling him up for the Springboks' second Test of the mid-year series against England, and the hooker subsequently signed for the Pretoria-based Bulls in Super Rugby.
Erasmus said at the time that he wanted Brits to be involved in the national set-up because "we want our young players rubbing shoulders with experienced players ... it's a great way for our younger guys to learn the trade of international rugby from these guys", but Brits has proved he remains a valuable asset on the field as well with a string of impressive performances for the Bulls as they have claimed top spot early in the South African conference. And the hooker has explained why he believes he is in such good form.
"Love motivates me as a player," Brits said ahead of the Father and Son Sleepout at Loftus Versfeld last weekend.
"I'm very people orientated. For me to function as a player, I need love from a coach. I need my coach to actually believe in me and not just worry about my performance, but also worry about my family.
"It's weird, but everyone gets motivated differently. I get motivated by someone who cares for me. I'm an emotional being. I cry when I watch movies. But that's it for me. Love is my motivator.
"And coach Pote [Human] has been amazing like that. He has an unbelievable heart and he treats us as human beings and not as tools, and that makes an impact on a player. When a player is just treated as a tool to do a job, my experience is that it doesn't work."
Brits said the Bulls had made "a good start and things have gone our way" in winning three of their opening four Super Rugby fixtures before the bye in round five - impressive derby wins against the Stormers, Lions and Sharks, while losing to the Jaguares in Buenos Aires in Round 2. The Bulls host the Chiefs at Loftus Versfeld this week, their first fixture of the season against inter-conference rivals.
"We will get better as the season goes on," Brits said.
"It's still a squad that's only been together for a short amount of time, and we've achieved above what was expected of us."