Schoolboy Derby stars: Grey’s Serfontein and Swanepoel

GARETH DUNCAN picks Jan Serfontein and Dries Swanepoel as this week’s Schoolboy Derby stars.

It’s seldom at junior level that you get an effective combination like Grey College’s centre pair Jan Serfontein and Dries Swanepoel. They’ve been central in the Bloemfontein school’s unbeaten record this year, forming the heart of their attack and defence in the midfield. They impressed for a triumphant Free State U18 side at Craven Week and will feature for the SA Schools team against France U18 in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.

The two players strengths complement each other. In Serfontein, you have a physical inside centre who stands at 1.87m and weighs 84kg. He’s proven to be elusive with ball in hand as he scored three tries for Free State U18 in Kimberley while he also creates opportunities for those on his outside. And who better to play alongside him than Swanepoel. The No 13 is gifted runner, who manages to hit the gaps with the perfect angles. He’s also a strong leader, skippering the likes of Grey College and Free State U18, while he will be vice-captain of the SA Schools team in the Tri-Nations Test curtain-raiser this weekend.

Both boys believe the key to their successful partnership is the time they’ve spent together.

‘I moved from Grey High (PE) to Grey College (Bloem) in Grade 10 in 2009. Since then, we’ve always played in the same team and have been room-mates in the hostels,’ Serfontein tells keo.co.za.

‘We’re very good friends on and off the field and that helps a great deal. Whenever we’re not playing, we’re talking rugby. We speak about the youngsters playing in senior teams. Look at a guy like Johan Goosen. We were playing alongside him the other day, now he’s being picked for the Cheetahs Currie Cup side. That’s great motivation for guys like Dries and me, who want to play professional rugby after school.

‘When you two players are always with each other, like Jan and I, you’re going to perform well together,’ adds Swanepoel. ‘We know what the other guy’s going to do and what;s needed for support. It’s almost telepathic. As skipper, there’s a lot of pressure on my shoulders. But all the Grey boys in the team help me with the leadership, which dissolves that pressure. Especially Jan.’

So as room-mates, are there any embarrassing stories?

‘Jan’s a clean freak. If a door knob is dirty, he’ll take a tissue to open it. He also takes so long to get done in the mornings,’ jokes Swanepoel.

‘There’s not much to say about Dries. He’s just a laid back guy. I’m the one who’s always hounding him to be on time. He’s always so chilled,’ explains Serfontein.

Serfontein and Swanepoel’s schoolboy journey at Grey College comes to an end this year. But their partnership may continue in Pretoria in 2012.

‘I’ve signed a two-year contract with the Bulls. Dries might join me there next year,’ says Swanepoel. ‘Two other Grey boys have also signed for the Bulls, and it’s going to nice to be with guys I know over there with me.’

‘I’m still contemplating whether I want to go to the Bulls or not,’ says Dries. ‘The fact that Jan will be there is an appealing part of the deal. We know each other’s game very well, and that can help our development as we go through the ranks. I’ll decide soon.’