TO be one of the best 30 players in the country is an honour and privilege for Lucky Dlepu from Langa, scrumhalf of WP U18 Craven Week team.
The SA Rugby Academy was launched on Thursday 2 February at the South African Academy of Sport (SAS) in Stellenbosch where the 30 players will undergo training and further their academic careers for the next four months.
“I started my schooling career at Zimasa Primary and finished matric at SACS in Newlands. In Grade 1 my teacher John Nkalitsha gave me my first rugby lesson and he is still part of all my achievements as a rugby player. Thanks to him I am the player that I am today,” Lucky said.
He came through the ranks of Western Province Rugby Union and played in the Grant Khomo team (u.16) in Oudtshoorn and the past two years he was in the u.18 Craven Week team. Last year he also captained the side, but they lost in the semi-final.
“The loss was very disappointing because the team and management worked very hard. The lesson that I learned from this experience was that you must stay humble and never play the game before you take the field. Over-confidence can be a killer and you must also realise that anything can happen on the day,” he said.
He admires Aaron Smith, All Black and Otago Highlander scrumhalf.
“I like the way he reads the game and plays for his franchise and the All Blacks. His attitude on the field is what I aspire too because he tries to outwit his opponent in a game and his ball distribution is exceptional,” Lucky said.
The best advice he received from his mom, Nomthetho, who encouraged hom to always give his best.
“She said that I must stay humble and put God first before anything and trust in His plans. When I was selected to join the best u.18 and u.19 players here at SAS this was the first thing that came to mind, namely to trust in God’s plans,” he said.
On a question if he has any rituals before a game he said that he takes his rugby jersey, turn it around to see the number, and then thank his family. Before he takes the field, he prays, he said.
“My future plans is to study teaching because I also want to give back to my community. I also want to make sure that the youngsters in Langa get the opportunities that I couldn’t get when I was still at primary school. My main goal is to become a Springbok and I see my stay here in Stellenbosch as the first step on the ladder,” Lucky said.
When he is not playing rugby he likes watching movies and spending time with family and friends.
“My message to youngsters is to believe in yourself and your goals. Don’t let negative people put you down in not achieving your dreams. Put God first and believe in His plan,” he said.
The fact that he is now part of the squad in Stellenbosch is a dream come true.
“To be with the best players in the country and being coached by the coaches of the Springboks, the Sevens and from SAS will only enhance my skills. I am also excited to share the same space with the Blitzbokke and am eager to learn from them, especially how to use space to the team’s advantage,” Lucky said.
“After the four months the players will return to their respective unions. With the holistic development of the players as its main aim, this programme at SAS is the perfect fit between high performance sport and education,” said Jurie Roux CEO of SA Rugby.
“It’s wonderful to have a company like SAS as committed to sport and the upliftment of people to come on board in this very important venture and I would like to thank them for their contribution.
“The academic side of the programme is very important as we aim to also prepare players for careers outside of playing rugby, while at the same time keeping the very important aspect of transformation in mind,” Roux said.
The players will also receive world-class guidance in terms of what is needed to become a top professional rugby player, but will also study various courses at a number of tertiary institutions across the country, Roux concluded.
Rob Benadie, CEO of SAS, said that they want to promote excellence and make a contribution to transformation in South African Rugby.