Kobus van Wyk will play his first home match as a DHL Stormers player tonight, the same rugby-mad youngster who used to live down the road from his rugby hero.
As a youngster growing up in Paarl, Van Wyk lived three houses down from then Stormers and Springbok star Marius Joubert and he used to visit his hero as often as possible.
“I was that guy,” chuckled Van Wyk in conversation with the official DHL Stormers website, www.iamastormer.com.
“I used to visit Marius Joubert and his family as often possible – getting things signed and throwing a ball around with him.
“I’ve always been a big fan of the Stormers and Western Province – growing up here and playing for WP since my Under-18 days,” added the powerful outside back.
“To be honest, I still have to pinch myself when I realise that I am now playing for the DHL Stormers. It’s always been a dream of mine and, now, to be playing at DHL Newlands in front of an amazing crowd… it’s quite surreal!”
Like Joubert and current DHL Stormers captain and centre star Jean de Villiers before him, Van Wyk also attended renowned rugby school Paarl Gym where he initially played at flyhalf (from Under-13 to Under-15 level) and then at centre for the First XV.
When asked about the influence of players like Joubert and De Villiers on him as a schoolboy, Van Wyk added: “I’ve always looked up to Jean, since my school days, and to be playing alongside him is such a big honour. He’s achieved so much in the game – I would give anything just to emulate half of what he has achieved in his career.”
Despite being just 22 years old, Van Wyk’s rugby CV speaks for itself.
After playing for the WP Under-18 Craven Week team in 2010, Kobus played for the Under-19 team later that year – whilst still at school – before joining the WP Rugby Institute on a full-time basis in 2011.
He again played for the DHL WP Under-19 team in 2011 and then stepped up to the Under-21 ranks in 2012 and 2013, also making his senior provincial debut for the Vodacom Cup team last year.
Van Wyk – weighing in at 94 kilograms and standing 1,90 metres tall – also partnered Springbok Jan Serfontein at centre for the championship-winning SA Under-20 team in 2012.
“I’m very grateful that I have taken this route to the senior team,” admitted Van Wyk. “As a younger player you could get thrown into the deep-end but I am fortunate in that I have played for WP since I was at school and have taken every representative step possible within the union – although I am yet to play an Absa Currie Cup match for Province!
“Last year, in the Under-21 team, we would sit around talking in the changeroom about joining the (senior) guys upstairs in their changeroom. Now it’s a reality, for myself and Oli (Kebble), and we want to contribute as much as possible and, in the process, establish ourselves in the team.”
Whilst Van Wyk has played most of his rugby for WP at centre, he is loving the challenge of lining up on the wing and, with it, the opportunity of coming up against the best players in the southern hemisphere on a weekly basis.
“On a personal note, I’m looking forward to testing myself against top international players like Cory Jane and Julian Savea – I have nothing to lose but everything to gain,” he said.
“In terms of playing on the wing, Marius Joubert played a few games there in his early provincial days and Jean started out there too for the Boks and even Damian de Allende, who I played with at Under-21 level, started his senior career (for WP) on the wing.
“I am learning more and more every day about the intricacies of playing wing and I’m hungry to develop my game no matter where I play. I am also grateful to be learning from guys like Gio Aplon and Jaco Taute at the back and, of course, Jean from the midfield – they all make it easier for us less experienced guys to fit in.”