Watch your former and current Ikey favourites turning out for the local franchises in the upcoming 2020 SuperRugby Zans Afrika competition.
With the looming closure of the Newlands Rugby Stadium, we thought it would be good to share some memories and photos. This is the second of a few articles about The Grand “old lady” of South African Rugby
Charles has been a stalwart of the Cubs backroom staff for close on 30 years. Many generations of players met him and became close friends with a man who absolutely loved everything about the Ikeys.
- Remind me what you studying – how’s it going – how has the move to online changed your work ethic?
I am studying a post-grad diploma in Market Management; I completed my undergrad in Psychology and Organisational Psychology. The move to online hasn’t been much of an issue for me, it has made me a lot more flexible and has given me a lot more time to gym and do other stuff which is nice. From a marks point of view, I haven’t noticed much of a change.
- How are you keeping rugby alive in your life during this “forced downtime” ?
At the beginning of lockdown, we had quite a lot of virtual socialisations; group Zoom calls and one-on-one talks with the coaches discussing and reviewing the season. I have been lucky enough to be training in a private (Covid friendly) gym which has kept me fit. I also coach [rugby] at Wynberg Boys High School, so I have had a lot of online chats with the guys to try further their knowledge and education; as opposed to physical training. So from a rugby point of view, it has been quite a busy time for me. But, to be honest, I think the first week or two of lockdown was quite nice because I didn’t have to think about rugby for the first time in a long time.
- What advice would you give a young guy entering the club in 2021?
I think, firstly, take every opportunity you get. It is an incredible set-up to be in, but if you want to be there and don’t seize every opportunity, you’re wasting your time. I always say just give 100% of yourself on and off the field. It’s also an opportunity to chat to the older guys and learn so much from them. You can learn so much from them that you’d never have learnt in school; so I’d say just listen, ask questions and give it your all.
- What do you wish you knew before starting at:
In my gap year, I went to Western Province Institute in Stellenbosch to play in the U19 Currie Cup. When starting at UCT, I hadn’t been in the academic space for a while, I wish I had a clearer picture of what was expected of me from an academic point of view. The academic side was a bit overwhelming at the beginning.
b) Rugby in the university set up?
I came in quite young to the first side at UCT, I was 19 when I was playing in my first Varsity Cup. I wish I knew just to step back a bit and learn from the guys before trying to do everything myself. You get humbled very quickly in this set up, I was very arrogant at the beginning but quickly learnt my place. I honestly wish I came in a little more eager to learn instead of thinking I knew everything.
But my first year at UCT was a very cool year nevertheless, four of us all came together [from province] to play for UCT but it was definitely a huge learning year for me. Coming from winning every single game in the Currie Cup to just about losing every single game at UCT was tough at the beginning. It definitely taught me the valuable lesson of how to deal with loses and how to come back from such a dark place – club wise and personally. It was a huge growing experience for me.
- How do you think you have evolved from a school boy rugby player to an Ikey Tiger? – what do you think the main differences are?
It is a huge step up from school rugby to province rugby. At school you just play the season and its done, but at province we obviously played throughout the year. It was a huge wake-up call for me and I think it was the perfect stepping stone into playing for Varsity Cup. I don’t think I would have managed with Varsity Cup without playing in the Currie Cup before. I think once I left school, I actually started learning and adapting to the professional environment at province and then balancing university with rugby in the university set up. But, I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.
- How do you rate the strength of the Ikey Tigers 1st team rugby team?
Although probably quite bias to say, I feel we would have been in the final this year. It has been a massive build up and accumulation of the last few years and this year it seemed that we really had everything going for us. We became a team that would fight back. This year’s team has been incredible, we all just gelled so well on and off the field which I think was integral to our success.
- The Ikey Tigers recently changed the head coach to Tom Dawson-Squibb – how to you think this affected the team set-up?
Not to take away from Essie and the hard work he put in over the years, but the coach change definitely made a difference this year. A main difference is the relationship that Tom created with each and every player as well as the relationship between the guys. No coach I have ever had has managed to achieve that as well as Tom; he made an extremely competitive environment but we love, respect and support each other at the same time.
Our theme this year was “The Defiant Ones” – the whole premise was to step away from the norm. When Corona hit, initially we didn’t get affected by it. We moved on and carried on. I think the theme is so poignant to the time we find ourselves in; even though we aren’t physically together, we all look forward to our Monday night Zoom sessions and this is something built into the culture that Tom created. It is quite special if you think about it, the friendships that have been created have been incredible even though everything else changed so drastically.
- What makes Ikey Tigers unique – club/socially wise?
Off the bat, we accept everyone in the club. It doesn’t matter what you look like, how you dress, your background… we don’t try to change you but rather celebrate what makes a person unique. All the different characters in the club make the club what it is; and it is so special. In other set-ups, they often try to change you and mould you into something that you are not. I think that this is something that is really awesome about the club; simply you’re a legend until proved otherwise.
- Three dream dinner guests – who would you invite and why?
1. Kevin Hart – because he is so funny and would add great value around the table for a laugh.
2. Richie McCaw – he would have interesting stories to share; he is an incredible rugby player so I think it would be cool to have it there for his input.
3. My dad/old man – he has always been my number one supporter and definitely got to where I am today. He never missed a game from U9-Matric. He has become so special in my rugby career, but he has never ever put pressure on me, “if you want to quit, quit, if you want to play professionally then do it.” He has backed me in every decision I have made so he would be an absolutely invaluable dinner guest at my table.
With the looming closure of the Newlands Rugby Stadium, we thought it would be good to share some memories and photos. This will be the first of a few articles about The Grand “old lady” of South African Rugby.