Marco van Staden: From Varsity Cup to Boks in one crazy year

Marco van Staden (Gallo)
Marco van Staden (Gallo)

Durban - One of the great stories to emerge from Saturday's Rugby Championship clash between the Springboks and Argentina in Durban was the Test debut of Marco van Staden

The 22-year-old, along with Damian Willemse, earned his first Bok cap off the bench in South Africa's 34-21 win. 

His introduction was tough, and one of Van Staden's first duties was to try and gather a horror pass from Willemse that resulted in a Pumas try that got them right back into the game. 

It was Van Staden, though, who made the final turnover of the game to secure possession for his side and a valuable bonus-point win in their tournament opener. 

It's been some year for the Krugersdorp-born loose forward. 

Just a little over a year ago, he was playing Varsity Cup rugby with Tuks and won the 2017 edition of the tournament. 

Having attended Hoerskool Bekker, a little-known school in the Gauteng town of Magaliesberg, Van Staden didn't come close to playing Craven Week and SA Schools. 

It was, instead, his platform in the Varsity Cup that got him recognised. 

The SuperSport Challenge followed, and this year he had a breakthrough season of Super Rugby with John Mitchell's Bulls. 

Erasmus rates this youngster incredibly highly and were it not for injury in the final Super Rugby match before the international break, Van Staden would have started in the No 6 jersey in the first Test against England in June. 

Nicknamed 'Eskom' by his team-mates because he "turns the lights out" after a big hit, Van Staden is unassuming in stature.

He is short and stocky and doesn't look the type of player who would be very mobile. But speak to anyone who has watched him play up north this year, and they will tell you that this man is capable of some big things on the field. 

Van Staden was put up for media interviews following his debut, and it soon became clear that he is a man who prefers his performances to do the talking. 

Soft-spoken, Van Staden explained the disappointment of picking up that knee injury just before the England Tests.

"It was disappointing at the time," he said.

"I still believe that everything happens for a reason and that the right time will come for everything. I just had to work harder to get back into the group. It was motivation for me."

Van Staden could have been forgiven for being nervous on the biggest stage, and those nerves would have been amplified after Matias Moroni pounced on the loose ball that had come after the Willemse pass to Van Staden. 

"It wasn’t a great feeling going up for a ball and then looking back and seeing the try, but you can’t let those moments stop you from playing the game. You have to work for the next moment and forget about it," Van Staden said.

Van Staden is on the plane to Argentina for Saturday's return fixture in Salta, and he will almost certainly be given a second Test cap.

"It’s always been my dream to wear the green and gold jersey. There were tough times with injuries and not getting chosen for teams, but I just had to keep on believing," he said.

"Just keep believing and keep working hard and don’t let anyone tell you that something is not possible.

"It’s been a dream year. I started in the Varsity Cup and I never thought I would even be close to this green and gold jersey. It still feels like a dream and reality will kick in later."

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