Leroy Bitterhout knows his way to the tryline.
Bitterhout was selected for the SA U18 High Performance squad and SA Schools XV and scored three tries in the latter’s 92-21 win over Namibia in August. He also featured for the FNB Invitational XV at the St John’s Easter Festival this year, where he scored two tries and kicked three conversions in their win over the hosts.
SA Schools co-coach and Boland Craven Week coach Alridge Mercuur says pace and agility make Bitterhout a dangerous wing.
‘He has excellent speed which makes him a big threat out wide, especially in broken play,’ says Mecuur. ‘That’s something no coach can teach a player. He has great skills with ball in hand and a talented boot. He can kick for touch and at goal if needed.’
Bitterhout was born in Paarl, where he attended Ebenezer Primary, before joining Klein Nederburg Secondary where he has played for the 1st XV for the past two years.
While Bitterhout has excelled this season, there are doubts about his transition to senior level because of his small stature (68kg, 1.70m).
‘I realise that I’m smaller than the other players but I have the talent and the pace to do well,’ says Bitterhout. ‘I’m working hard to build myself up as I go to the gym about three times a week.’
Mecuur insists Bitterhout’s size shouldn’t be seen as a disadvantage.
‘Leroy is like Gio Aplon,’ says Mecuur. ‘His pace and agility make up for his lack of size and he can cope against the bigger boys. He is well built and conditioned for a player of his stature. He shouldn’t spend too much time in the gym because he will lose his pace if he grows too big.
‘He can make the step up to senior rugby one day but he shouldn’t be rushed. He should be nurtured in the sevens format while he’s still young, to enhance his ball skills and build more speed.’
Bitterhout’s impressive season has earned him a two-year junior contract with the Bulls. He will move to Pretoria in 2011 and finish his schooling at Affies.
‘I’m excited about next year. I plan to do my best and take all the opportunities that come my way,’ he says. ‘I decided to leave Boland because the Bulls are a more established union. I want to pursue a rugby career after school and the Bulls can help me achieve that.’
By Gareth Duncan
– This article first appeared in the October issue of SA Rugby magazine