Current Blue Bulls loose forward and Komani-local, Roelof Smit (24), got the opportunity of a lifetime when he was called up to make an appearance for the Springbok squad in the starting line-up against the Barbarians in the November tests.
“I felt humbled and honoured to be there. The green and gold jersey is everything to me,” says a proud Smit.
As a young player who is still working his way up the SA Rugby professional scene, Smit knows what it takes to start a career in the game at school level and to continually work to secure his place in the national squad.
The Hoërskool Waterkloof old-boy originally made his debut for the Blue Bulls in 2014 at the age of 21 after having been sent by The Blue Bulls Company on the Investec International Rugby Academy’s Advanced Players’ Course – an opportunity for schoolboy rugby players to learn from former and current, international and local, players and coaches.
“I can’t remember a day I didn’t want to become a professional rugby player. I have no words describing my first cap. All I knew is that I wanted more,” says Smit.
Smit attributes much of his success on the field to what he learnt at the academy. Former All Blacks player, commentator and coach at the academy, Murray Mexted, stands out in Smit’s mind for having taught him about one of the key elements to becoming a professional player – mental toughness.
“Mental toughness for me was the key in going to the next level; you can beat someone purely at being mentally stronger. Murray taught me vital skills such as visualising what you are going to do next and, most importantly, the definition of mental toughness – the ability to perform at my maximum, every time,” fondly reflects Smit.
During his time at the academy, Smit was able to learn from the rugby icons that were involved in mentoring and teaching various technical and practical aspects of the game. Interacting with these rugby greats has provided him, he believes, the leg up needed to hone his professional game.
“My most memorable moment at the academy was working national rugby icon, Braam van Straaten. My boots, at the time, were giving me trouble and so Braam helped me out by giving me his green and gold Puma boots, which still hang above my bed,” says Smit.
Braam van Straaten’s boots may have pre-empted a sign of what was to come. Smit describes his experience playing in green and gold as one of his most memorable achievements.
The passionate sportsman is full of advice for young players hoping to achieve their rugby dreams.
Smit believes that one of the most important things to remember as a young rugby player is that a positive mind-set can help a player stand out amongst the rest.
“Always believe in yourself, no matter where you come from or what people think of you. Stay focused on the job at hand, visualize what you are going to do and back yourself,” says Smit.
The Investec International Rugby Academy aims to encourage SA’s schoolboys to play rugby, improve their skills to move up a team, and mentor those that dream of becoming professional someday. Offering courses for players at school level and for coaches with a passion for making a difference in the game, the academy offers a Prestige Players’ Course (ages 7 to 10), an Intermediate Players’ Course (ages 11 to 14) and a 5-Day Players’ Course (ages 14 to 17). The 5-Day Coaches’ Course (all levels) runs alongside the 5-Day Players’ course, offering coaches practical and theoretical training.
The Investec International Rugby Academy’s next players’ and coaches’ courses will take place from 1 to 5 July at St Charles College in Pietermaritzburg. Register online at www.investecacademy.com or contact the academy on (031) 940 5565.