Impi coach sets sights on Varsity Cup

2013-08-29 00:00

UKZN Impi coach Shawn van Rensburg is a man on a mission.

Having gotten his side a whisker away from a Varsity Shield final, Van Rensburg now aims to get them playing in the Varsity Cup, and he doesn’t want to stop there.

“In the next three to five years, we want to win the cup.”

Big words, big dreams. But, listening to him speak, you realise he is serious.

When Van Rensburg took over as head coach of the Impi, the side weren’t doing too well. The team had gone through two seasons winning just three games. They performed dismally in 2011 and finished with three wins, and even worse in 2012, losing all of their eight games.

“I took over just after the Varsity Shield season had ended last year, and this year, with the same players we just missed out on the final,” he says.

But, he says, they’ll have to recruit well to ensure that they have the right players to take the team forward.

“There is a lot of talent in KwaZulu-Natal. But a lot of players, once they leave school, tend to stay with their clubs,” he said, adding that they will look at the possibility of recruiting from outside of the province.

In between coaching the Impi, Van Rensburg also takes charge of the Voortrekker High School first team. In fact, it was the job at Voories that made it possible for him to take the job with the university.

“I’m a Durban boy, and I was coaching Durban Harlequins when the university started headhunting me. It became easier for me to take the job once I moved to Pietermaritzburg.”

He is also confident that the standard of Voories’ play will rise.

“We did better this year than last year. We won quite a few games. We beat the Maritzburg College seconds, Kearsney seconds, and St Charles.

“College and St Charles are our biggest rivals. I look forward to the day when we play against College firsts. We’ll get there.”

For next year, he singled out two players in Grade 11 he would build his side around. His centre Juan Luyke and lock/eightman Bandisa Ndlovu.

Van Rensburg doesn’t want to end there. He dreams of one day taking on the most coveted job in South African rugby, a job that he says is one of the hardest in world rugby.

“I’d like to be a professional coach. I’d like to coach a Currie Cup side and make the step up to Super Rugby. Once there, I’ll see how it goes, but I’d certainly like to one day coach the Springboks.”

It was former Springbok coach Jake White’s biography In Black and White that inspired him to dream to one day take on the Bok job.

After being forced to retire from rugby at 32, he briefly went into the business world and started a building company, but he missed the game so much that he wanted to get back into it.

“I’m loving it. I can’t get out of it. I want to give back to the game because it’s given me so much. It’s taken me all over the world, and it’s always nice to see a team you coach doing well,” he said.

For a year-and-a-half, between 2009 and 2011, he coached the South Side Irish in Chicago. He also played for Neath RFC (now Ospreys) in Wales and for Toulon in France. His time in Europe also saw him play Heineken Cup rugby for eight years.

However, he was never able to take to the field for a Test match. After living in Wales for a number of years, he was called up to the squad to play against Scotland in 2000, but pulled out of the game due to injury.

In 2003, he was again picked to play against Scotland, and again, he had to pull out due to injury.

A knee injury forced him into retirement, and he’s been coaching since 2007. In South Africa, he played alongside his brother Clinton van Rensburg for Transvaal, EP and Natal.

Van Rensburg now lives in Maritzburg with his partner Anneleen and son Zane (19 months).

“He’s a big boy for his age. He’s growing up next to a rugby field. He’s at all my matches and he’s always watching. Hopefully he’ll one day follow in his dad’s footsteps, but do it better.”

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