Keo.co.za gets to know the Grey Bloem and Free State Craven Week flyhalf.
How does it feel being selected as Free State’s Craven Week flyhalf for the second year running?
It’s great to be selected, and it makes putting in such a big effort [for Grey] worthwhile. I’ve just done my best at every match and training session and tried to show that I deserve to be in the team.
Last year Free State lost 19-17 to Western Province in the unofficial final, where you contributed 12 points. Was it tough to lose after such a dominant display?
It was a bitter pill to swallow, because we really thought we had them [WP fullback Craig Barry scored in the dying stages to deny Free State the victory]. On a personal level, I kicked well and scored a try, so I feel I contributed, but it wasn’t my best performance.
There are 18 Grey Bloem players in the Free State 22. Do you see that as an advantage?
There’s only one player from our 1st XV who’s not in the side, so it definitely gives us an edge over teams who have to bring together players from different schools with varying approaches. We don’t have that challenge, as we play the same structure as we would for Grey. Finding continuity isn’t as big an issue.
How has the side performed in the warm-up matches?
We’ve struggled a bit … we haven’t quite found our top gear. We won both games [47-10 against the Griffons and 20-13 against the Pumas] but picked up a few injuries. Our wings [Jan Serfontein, Ruwellyn Isbell] and flankers [Heinrich Douglas, Tyron Schultz] are out for the time being.
Your first match is against Border on Tuesday. What can we expect from Free State?
We’re in a training camp at the moment, so we’ll peak at the right time and will be ready for Border. I played for Border at U13 level, so I know a few of their players. They’ll be strong up front and might try to draw us into a forward battle, but our pack is more than capable of handling it. They’re my old province, so I’d definitely like to put in a good performance.
What’s been the highlight of your rugby career so far?
Definitely playing for Grey College 1st XV; it’s been special to be a part of that legacy. I’m in my matric year so I’m squeezing everything out of it.
What are the strengths in your game?
I feel I have a good all round game – my running and defence are strong – but if I had to pick an area it would be my kicking: tactical and at posts. I pride myself on my boot.
What do you feel you need to work on?
I think it’s important to keep developing every part of my game – defence, attack, kicking, there’s always room to grow and get better.
Who do you want to emulate?
Definitely Jonny Wilkinson. He’s got a fantastic kicking game and is a strong defender.
Who’s been your toughest opponent this year?
Paarl Gymnasium [Grey won 23-12] – the match was a dog fight. The conditions were bad – wet, windy and muddy – and we weren’t near our best. The backline just wasn’t gelling so we had to fight it out in the forwards and battle through the game. I managed to get involved with the boot, and played well in that respect.
What are your future ambitions?
I’ve signed with the Cheetahs for two years, so I’m trying to make rugby my future. I’d still like to go to university and study, but for now it’s taking a back seat.
Free State – 15 Raymond Rhule (Louis Botha), 14 Jan Serfontein (Grey), 13 William Small-Smith (Grey, c), 12 Paul Jordaan (Grey), 11 Ruwellyn Isbell (Grey), 10 Johan Goosen (Grey), 9 Kevin Luiters (Grey), 8 Niel Jordaan (Grey), 7 Heinrich Douglas (Louis Botha), 6 Tyron Schultz (Grey), 5 Cobus Nel (Grey), 4 Gerhard Olivier (Grey), 3 Neethling Fouché (Grey), 2 Anrich Bitzi (Grey), 1 Rudi Fuls (Grey).
Subs: 16 Armand Stoman (Grey), 17 Rudolph Botha (Grey), 18 Tuso Chalatsi (Louis Botha), 19 Leneve Damons (Grey), 20 KK Hlongwane (Louis Botha), 21 Setho Tom (Grey), 22 Dillon Douglas (Louis Botha).
By Rory Keohane