Our David travels the globe playing rugby and an international career means an international audiance. Next to that, back home in The Hague (the city of peace and justice) many members of his first club HRC have not quite master the Dutch langue either and thus David was good enough to give us his story in English too!
Man oh man, it’s that time of day already?
It seems like I only just finished complimenting props, and I can already go again! By the way, how talented are those props….
Let’s see, what did we talk about last time? An unexpected introduction to rugby, my immediate affection to it, the start of a new Rugby Academy, my first kiss on a winter’s day under the tree near Voorburg Station….Oh that’s right, we had to take that one out in the final edit. I just had to check if you were still paying attention.
In this 2nd edition we are going to continue our Road to Spain, and you will read about how me and my good friend Duncan Macdonald ended up getting a full-scholarship to a South African High School.
Sharks Academy Summer Camp
In June 2012 Duncs and I had decided, at 15 years old, to go to the Sharks Academy Summer Camp, in Durban, South Africa. The camp was meant for ‘Overseas Players’: non-South African players who wanted to experience the Professional life style that you could expect on the Sharks Academy. We had to pay to go there, and there were no illusions that this was going to be something more than just a great experience.
That turned out very differently (notice a re-occurring pattern already?) when the Head Coach came to us at the end of the 2 weeks and said: ‘We really like you guys as players, would like you like to come over here on a full scholarship and play rugby?’
‘….Sir, I would love to but perhaps I should call my parents first.’
In those 4 years, among other things,
– I played for the Sharks Invitational XV at the Wilderklawer Tournament, one of the biggest High School tournaments in the country.
– I played in front of more than 10 000 supporters during our Old Boys Day, where a helicopter dropped the match ball on the halfway line.
– Duncs and I played for DRSU and represented our Province at an Interprovincial Tournament in Pretoria.
– I’ve played in Kings Park, Newlands and Ellis Park.
– I’ve trained with ánd against the Springboks, and played a game against the Baby Boks in preparation of their 2016 U20 World Cup in the UK.
– I made physical leaps forward but I also had injuries.
– I made friends and seen some friendships die down.
– And many things were learned, but many also forgotten.
After an introduction like this Frank Sinatra would’ve probably sang ‘….and I did it myyyyyyy way’ but we really don’t have time for that.
I’m already struggling to keep things short and sharp….
Moment of Realisation
I only started realising what I was actually about to do when we were at the airport, saying goodbye to our family and best friends. Even 15 min before we had to go to the gate I was still excited, and actually said: ‘Why would I cry, what I’m about to do is literally the coolest thing that could’ve happened to me!’ But then came the actual goodbye.
My Mom cried, that was expected. I was mentally prepared for that.
Then my Dad cried.. Okay, unexpected but I guess it makes sense. Stay strong Dave.
….But then my little brother started crying.
My little brother! Until that point I was only in competition with that guy, he was the one I could have the biggest fun with, but also the biggest fights.
That hit me hard, so then my floodgates opened. There went the tough-guy image….
When we arrived in SA is was one big rollercoaster. A true overload of the senses. New language, new teammates, different climate, high level of rugby. You were constantly discovering new things, or trying to hold on for dear life to the things you weren’t yet willing to give up.
On top of that I tore my meniscus after only 6 weeks, so without having even played a league game I had to stay a night in the hospital and get operated on.
For a guy that didn’t go on rugby trips till he was 8 years old because of homesickness, I think by now we’d established that that period was in the past. The first months in the Boarding House, our school’s Residence, were really difficult too. The South African schooling system is in every way different compared to the Dutch one, and now our ‘house’ wasn’t even a home, we were just constantly out of our comfort zone.
24/7 surrounded by people you didn’t yet knew.
Once I gotten used to it though, I actually really enjoyed the Boarding House. I became good friends with some of the boys in there and then you basically get to spend all day with your best friends.
Back down to Earth
The rugby also started getting better the longer we stayed there.
Northwood is not one of the big rugby schools but we actually had some good players and coaches, and in our 2nd year we really started getting some good results. We beat Hilton and Jeppe for the first time in over 10 years, and were getting more and more players representing the KZN Province.
We were getting quite a few signals that we could expect some some nice scholarships or contracts after we’d finish High School, so when in the end we ended up getting absolute zip, it was a massive disappointment. All the naivety we still possessed at that point got hard-handedly got smashed out of us.
Of course it was naive to think that just because we’d played a couple of good seasons we’d immediately be in the spotlight for the big stage, but either way our hopes were broken into pieces and suddenly we had to start from 0 trying to plan our next season.
A very disappointing and stressful period, but definitely lesson learned. I think it’s fair to say we counted our chickens before those sons a bitches had even hatched.
None the less eventually some options came up, and even though they weren’t contracts of even full-scholarships, they ended up being life changing experiences once again in their own right.
More on that in the next edition of Road to Spain!
I think I can speak for Duncan as well when I say that we’ve had an extraordinary time at Northwood, and that it has given us friends for life.Through tough times watching the Titanic in bed with some apple juice and a 1L tub of vanilla yoghurt, Duncs has since then become one of my very best friends.
I think maybe even the coolest thing is that Northwood was so happy with us that they decided to go to the NL and scout for more Dutch talent, which has led to over 10 guys that got given the opportunity to play rugby in South Africa!
We were well received by the Kennedy’s, who helped us from the very beginning. We had some pretty special moments in the Boarding House with the Bragins, and we were fortunate to meet the Van Wyk’s, the Kriedemanns’s and the Special Slaters. We were very lucky to have been treated like extended family bu these people, and I’m sure our parents could sleep a little better knowing that we’d been properly cared for.
I have had an incredible time at Northwood and it was a near-impossible task to try and summarize it in a few pages.
Thanks a lot for reading!
Editor’s note: in case you would enjoy we’d post in English more frequently, kindly let us know at email@example.com and don’t be shy to e-mail us your own contribution!