Tighthead prop Neethling Fouché plans to dominate up front for Grey College this season, with the hopes of provincial and national selection for the second year running.
The 18-year-old was one of the surprise schoolboy stars last year. After helping Grey College achieve an unbeaten run in his first year of 1st XV rugby for the school, he went on to represent Free State at Craven Week and was selected for the SA Schools and SA U18 High Performance teams.
This season Fouché plans to build on his impressive 2010.
‘I was really surprised when I was selected for the national teams,’ says Fouché. ‘I was 17 years old and thought I’d only be in contention for selection for these type of teams in my matric year. But I’m delighted with what I achieved at the 2010 Craven Week and it has raised my expectations for 2011.
‘I want to play a leading role for Grey College this season and contribute on the field from the front. If I build momentum by carrying the ball up strongly or making a big tackle, that should inspire my team-mates to deliver a strong performance.
‘We are aiming for another unbeaten season as we have seven players who were in last year’s 1st XV.’
Fouché was born and raised in Rustenburg, where he attended Laerskool Rustenburg and Die Hoërskool Rustenburg before transferring to Grey College in Grade 10 for better rugby opportunities. Provincially, he represented the Leopards at U13 and U16 levels in 2006 and 2009 respectively before his successful season in Bloemfontein last year.
Fouché started playing prop in primary school, but switched to eighthman in Grade 8. When he arrived at Grey College, he moved back to tighthead prop, his preferred position.
‘I want to play tighthead because there are only a few good ones in world rugby and I want to become one of them,’ says Fouché. ‘Last season, I scrummed well at tighthead but this year I want to dominate. I want to make the looseheads remember my name by scrumming them off the park.’
Grey College 1st XV coach Ingo Machts believes Fouché can become a versatile prop.
‘Neethling can contribute at loosehead too. He’s quite tall for a prop [Fouché stands at 1.90m and weighs 110kg], so he could do well on the other side of the scrum.
‘Otherwise, Neethling is a good all-round player. He anchors the scrum well and is a strong ball-carrier. If he stays injury-free and works hard, he can become a good rugby player after school.’
Neethling will sign a junior contract with the Bulls at the end of the year, in a deal that will see him play for Tuks.
‘I spent time at the union last year, doing some off-season training with the Super Rugby squad. I loved it, especially the family vibe.
‘Next year, I want to study at Tuks but I’m not sure what course I will take yet. It would be great to play Varsity Cup rugby for them and go through the ranks at the Bulls. Hopefully I can crack the senior side in the next two or three years.’
By Gareth Duncan