Keo.co.za chats to Esportif Schoolboy rugby agent Philip Du Toit on the implications of being a talented youngster in a professional environment and what it takes to transition successfully
After this weekend saw schoolboy star and Stormers youngster Salmaan Moerat blooded in Super Rugby against the Highlanders, the rugby public was reminded again of the rapid proliferation of youth in the professional arena. Moerat joined fellow 19 year old and schoolboy sensation Damien Willemse in the Stormers lineup for his first cap, whilst Willemse debuted a year earlier at only 18 years old.
But what exactly, aside from raw talent, enables these players to be developing so quickly and breaking through at such a young age? It begins with identification and nurturing at age group level. In a quick Q&A with prolific Schoolboy agent Philip Du Toit, of Esportif International, he speaks about what he looks for in a young player, as well as the defining qualities that have enabled Salmaan Moerat to be so successful at schoolboy level and seamlessly transition into the professional set up
What qualities do you look for in a young player when scouting, besides obvious natural talent?
Work ethic especially, I maintain that hard work will always prevail against raw talent. But you also want a player who can still develop, you don’t want someone who is the full package at 16 but could potentially stagnate. I also look for somebody who will be willing to manage his social life in accordance with what is required training wise in order to make it professionally.
At what age did you first sign Salmaan Moerat?
I watched him at age 14 and monitored his progress, then signed him to Western Province at 16 years old.
What stands out for you in Salmaan that tells you he will be successful in his transition from age group high level rugby to the professional arena?
He is incredibly hard working and self driven, but is also willing to take him self out of his comfort zone. In fact he thrives when he sets goals not within his comfort zone. And for all his success thus far he is also very humble.
What do you think it takes in order for a young school boy talent to be correctly managed to ensure a successful transition to professional rugby?
Players need to know that they must still have balance. While I said earlier that it is important for a young player to be able to manage his social life and take into account high level training, they must still allow themselves to be teenagers and have a bit of fun. If they aren’t having fun playing the game and enjoying their teenage years, then whats the point?
What do you believe is the greatest challenge for a young player coming into professional environment?
There’s lots of talent, especially the higher you go, so you have to maintain the hard work that got you there in the first place. Staying injury free is another factor as many young guys will suffer injuries in their first few seasons as the physicality and speed of the professional game is a big adjustment. Once again, social lifestyle is important. Many youngsters playing professionally are effectively kids with adult responsibilities and paycheques, so it is important to remain disciplined.