THE future is bright for Kearsney old boy Robert du Preez, who is the latest winner of the Sharks Academy Student of the Year award. The 20-year-old flyhalf comes from a prolific rugby family. Dad Robert du Preez senior made his debut for the Springboks in 1992 against New Zealand. He was capped seven times at international level during a long scrumhalf career with the Sharks and Blue Bulls. Twin brothers Daniel [lock] and Jean-Luc [flank] have both just finished at Kearsney, are both part of the SA Schools sides and have both joined their older brother at the Sharks Academy. In 2011, all three Du Preez players played together in the KZN Craven Week side. On the award, Du Preez jnr was humble. “It is awesome, especially looking at the names of the guys who won it before me,” the BCom student told The Witness yesterday. Current Sharks Marcell Coetzee and Paul Jordaan are both previous winners of the prestigious award. According to the academy, it seeks out the individual who demonstrated an exemplary balance between academics and an outstanding work ethic on and off the field. “It has been difficult balancing rugby and studies. When I was in the SA U20 side I missed a couple of exams,” conceded Du Preez jnr. “I still have two or three years left, depending on how things go, but it’s going well so far.” Du Preez snr was thrilled at his son’s achievement, and emphasised the importance of studying while pursuing a professional sporting career. “Today we see too many players leaving rugby without anything behind them,” he said. “It is crucial for young guys to study. You never know when you can’t play any more and, more than that, it is important for them to have other interests that make them more balanced.” There is no sign of the Du Preez rugby fairy tale ending anytime soon. Du Preez snr has not ruled out the prospect of watching all three of his boys playing together in Springbok colours. “It is definitely a possibility. It can happen,” he said cautiously, adding what he felt was the recipe for success amongst his three boys. “There has to be an element of talent, but it is all about hard work. I have seen it a lot in sport, and the ones that succeed are the ones who put in the hardest work.” Du Preez jnr will start pre-season training for the Vodacom Cup on Monday. The Academy opens its doors again early next year when he will enjoy his final year. The road towards becoming a regular first team Shark may be a promising one, but it will not be easy. “I don’t want to start thinking about when it will happen,” said Du Preez jnr. “It takes time and there are a lot of quality players ahead of me.” On the success of his two younger brothers, Du Preez jnr said that the trio had always helped each other along the way. “There is definitely no added pressure because of it. We all motivate each other to be the best that we can be.” Du Preez snr now resides in Potchefstroom, where he heads rugby at North-West University and is set to take over as Leopards coach ahead of the new domestic season.