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Rugby | SuperSport Challenge

Ian Oosthuizen © Gallo Images

Oosthuizen’s ticket back to mainstream rugby

While most players would have been obsessing about fine-tuning their game during the warm-up games leading up to the inaugural SuperSport Rugby Challenge (SRC), Boland prop Ian Oosthuizen would have been preoccupied with his weight.

Going into those matches Oosthuizen weighed about 101kg – which even for tighthead props, who rely on technique instead of bulk in the scrums, was a little lig in die broek. Hence he was doing his level best to put on a few kilos ahead of Boland’s opening SRC game on Sunday against Border at the Wolfson Stadium in Port Elizabeth.

The explanation of how a tighthead came to weigh less than a modern-day loosie is basically that of the twists and turns Oosthuizen’s career has taken to be where it is today: “I was contracted to the Lions as an under-19 and under-21 player. I got a bit out of shape and my contract was terminated (in 2013).”

“Because I lost my contract that time at the Lions I told myself I need to work at dropping some weight. I’ve actually dropped too much so I’m now sitting in a position where I want to play hooker but I’ll play wherever they want me to play. I’m working to put it all back again.”

Oosthuizen took off so much weight that when he went to join Scottish club side Selkirk RFC as part of SA Rugby’s exchange programme with the Scots, having been voted forward of the tournament in the Gold Cup while playing for Brakpan, they played him at hooker.

But when Boland contracted him they wanted him at prop.

Not that any of it bothers Oosthuizen, who counts former Lions and Springbok eighthman Andre Vos as his hero (mainly because he bled for the cause) and former Lions teammates Gerrie Britz and Elton Jantjies as his mentors for the inspiration they have given him through how hard they work.

How he clawed his way back into professional rugby is itself an inspirational story worth retelling: “The first year (after his contract was terminated) I struggled to get work, but somebody helped me get into the motor industry. So I sold cars, which is actually a hard job because everybody thinks you’re the biggest thief there is who wants to rip them off.

“Everybody said it would not be possible to get back into the system, and I suppose you believe it yourself as well. But it happened and now I’ve got another chance again, which I’m definitely going to use.”

Oosthuizen says he had difficulty adjusting to his new life as a working man and a rugby player: “You still do everything you used to do as a professional player, it’s just that you now have a nine to five as well. You still go to gym, you still have to go to rugby practice at night and you still have the whole day that you have to go to work every day.

“So to adjust, stay committed and to try to make it is very hard and it’s a longer journey.”

So if ever there was a player who epitomised why the SRC exists it is the 24-year-old, who has now turned his attention to going all the way to the Springbok team, as soon as he has shown what he is capable of at this level.

Asked about the difference in scrumming at tighthead and hooker, he said “The big difference is tighthead is a specialist position where you really know what you’re doing. At hooker if you struggle you still have your two props but at tighthead if you struggle that whole scrum is going down.”


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