We’d Kneel for Niel; Our Very Own Small Town Superstar!

Otto hails from Mossel Bay, a small town up the Garden Route; after graduating from Outeniqua High School in George, Otto went to Durban to play for The Sharks. After three tough years (and a diploma in Sports Management) he made his way to the Mother City to play for the Ikey Tigers.

Jamie catches up with Otto, uncovers what he’s been up to and makes him think about his first training session at UCT. (Spoiler Alert: It wasn’t easy!)

  1. How old were you when you started playing rugby?
    I was actually five when I played my first rugby match, I grew up in a small rural town so there wasn’t enough boys to make up a team; I was in Grade R and they asked me to play for them. Most of my friends were two or three older than me. It’s funny, because I wasn’t even in Grade 1 when I played my first match.
  2. What was your first rugby memory?
    It wasn’t the proper game actually, I used to live in a school’s hostel in primary school; every afternoon we would all play rugby. We didn’t have money for a rugby ball so we used a 2 litre coke bottle and filled it with grass. You can imagine how the Grade 7’s used to treat us Grade 1’s but it was all worth it because I got my turn when I was in Grade 7.
  3. Who is your role model and why?
    I don’t really have a role model in the general sense, but in the rugby and sporting sense it would be Heinrich Brüssow. He is a small oke but I don’t think he ever lost a game against the All-Blacks and I met him when I was 12.
  4. Can you remember your first training session at UCT?
    It was December 2018, I arrived in Cape Town on the Sunday and we had training early on Monday morning. It was raining and the wind was pumping on the Green Mile. I immediately got a shock, I wasn’t sure if I was cut out for this weather. Coming from Durban where it is summer all year round; I got a huge wake-up call in Cape Town. I think the most nerve racking part was the other guys were like “this is nothing, wait until league games in winter.” I was broken after that first training session!
  5. What do you eat before a big match?
    I always eat the same thing actually. Oats with peanut butter and honey and 2-3 eggs. When something is out of place it stresses me out so I like to keep it the same and have the same pre-match routine.
  6. What’s a typical training day of a VC rugby player (during season)?
    I wake up at 5:30, gym at 6:30 and then class at 8. I finish class around 12-1; I head back to SACS (where I live in the Ikeys Digs with Ash, Brink and Tedder). We have lunch at 1; I do some university work and then I usually spend about an hour on game reviews and research from previous matches. At about 5 I head to the mile for training; get home, eat and sleep.
  7. What motivates you to achieve your goals?
    I would say success motivates me. I really hate losing; I am very competitive in that sense. The reason I research and work so hard to try and win. Obviously, I know success isn’t just about winning, but it is nice to win.
  8. What’s the next goal in your rugby career?
    After UCT, I would like to go overseas and play rugby. I want to experience something different, especially different cultures.
  9. How would you compare playing for the Sharks to UCT?
    Exactly the same, if not better. UCT has the top coaches I have ever worked with. I think the big difference is the UCT coaches have their 9-5 jobs but we still getting the same quality as we did in Durban. It really highlights the effort and passion the coaches put in.
  10. What one tip would you give a young person looking to succeed/entering the club?
    Just take everything in; learn from people and be present. There is so much knowledge; it’s the top university in country. Every day, get up and learn. No one knows their limits, so I say, just keep on pushing and pushing.