Quick tap with JJ Kotze

PUBLISHED: April 2, 2024

Hooker JJ Kotze chatted to us about studying to be a physio while playing rugby, his memories of watching the DHL Stormers growing up and that 50-22 kick against Ulster.

You are nearly qualified as a physio. How has the experience as a student athlete been for you?

I’m hoping to get my degree at the end of the year or at the latest in the March graduation next year. It has been a very tough experience physically and mentally to balance both. I must give credit to the physio department at Stellenbosch University, they have been very supportive throughout the years. This is my sixth year of studying and having to postpone things that can’t be completed in time because of my rugby obligations. Equally I have to give a lot of thanks to Dobbo and the rest of the coaches for supporting me to be able to do this. It has taken a lot of sacrifice on both sides, but the end is very close. It has been a lot of late nights and early mornings. I feel it has made me a better player by instilling work ethic and discipline, but it is also very taxing. I can’t remember the last time I had a proper holiday, whenever the rugby is off I shift focus to the studies.

You are a born and bred Capetonian. Do you have any early memories of supporting the DHL Stormers?

I have a lot of memories of watching the DHL Stormers at Newlands because we were lucky enough to have season tickets when I was growing up, so we barely missed a home game. We would braai on the school fields near the stadium before the game and then walk across. I could run around and kick a ball there as well, so it was never just watching the game, it was a whole event with my parents beforehand. My dad was a member of the supporters club as well, so we would walk through the bar on Boundary road to go into the stadium.

Can you take us through your 50-22 kick against Ulster?

I got the tap from the stolen line-out and I wanted to pass it, but the Ulster defenders shot out of the line so I thought I should rather just carry, then I slipped the first tackle and just ran through. I just wanted to get in behind them and hit quite a gap. I was looking around and I don’t think my teammates thought that I’d make it that far, so there wasn’t really anyone to pass to. I looked up and saw the space at the back and then looked down and realised that I was almost at the halfway line, so I knew if I was going to do it it was then. Luckily it worked out, otherwise I probably never would have played again.

You are good friends with Evan Roos. Why do your teammates call you the stepbrothers?

Evan and I are very good mates, we have known each other since school and played together and against each other. We have known each other quite a while and have kind of adopted the nickname of stepbrothers from the movie. The guys in the team started calling us that because we spend a lot of time together outside of rugby and usually sit together. We are just really good mates and basically could have been brothers.

Which area of your game would you say you work the hardest on?

I think I probably work the hardest on set-piece and defence. I feel that throwing and scrumming should be your main focus point if you play in a specialised position like hooker. I try and make sure that my throwing is on-point and the scrumming is solid. Just like a flyhalf would practice his kicking every day. With defence it feels like it is personal, because if someone beats you on defence, he beat you, he didn’t necessarily outsmart the team’s gameplan or find a new trick. If you miss a tackle he beat you, so it is a bit more personal.

What are your most memorable DHL Stormers moments on and off the field?

The most memorable moment has to be winning the Vodacom URC in that first season, that was insane. Growing up watching the DHL Stormers and always supporting them but never really seeing them win a title. Then to be a part of the team for starters and then the cherry on top at the end to actually win the competition. It has been almost two years, but I still don’t know how to explain how it felt, it was pretty surreal. I have so many memorable moments off the field, whether that is a night out on tour, a braai next to the field after training or even the chats in the meeting room.