Quick tap with Ruhan Nel

PUBLISHED: March 5, 2024

We caught up with centre Ruhan Nel and got some insight into what makes him tick.

You injured your knee at the end of last year, how is the rehab going?

“It has been going well, in the first six to eight weeks there is not much you can do. It is just important in the first two months to celebrate the small victories like can I bend my knee a little bit more or if I started cycling it’s a positive.”

You have recently bought a house, are you doing a lot of DIY around the house?

“The plan in December was to do quite a lot of DIY and unpacking, but then I got injured. Since I can move a bit easier I am getting stuck in, painting a couple of walls and the TV unit I am building. There are a couple of other things I want to get done around the house as well and it helps that I can move around a bit more.”

You are often mentioned by teammates as a player who could become a good coach, is that something you see happening after rugby?

“At this stage, while I’m injured I’ll be involved in some coaching capacity, it is an opportunity I won’t say no to. It is something that I love doing and something that I look forward to getting involved in.”

As one of the defensive leaders of the team, how seriously do you take that responsibility and can you give some insight into Defence Coach Norman Laker?

“Haha, how much time do we have for insights into Norman? Obviously the 13 fulfills different roles in different systems. At the DHL Stormers the 13 has more of a defensive role and a lot of the defensive responsibility comes down to you in terms of getting our width, because we have such an aggressive defensive system, so you are quite vulnerable on the outside as well. It is about taking that responsibility and helping the guys as much as possible to get good reads and apply as much pressure as we can on the opposition. It can be a beautiful thing when it comes off, but if it doesn’t it is usually the guys out wide who look a bit silly. It is a high-risk high-reward system that looks to put the opposition attack under pressure and force them into making decisions. With that comes a lot of bravery, but once you are comfortable it can be a very rewarding system. To touch on Norman, I don’t think there are a lot of coaches who are as passionate as him. He has a lot of pride in what he does, which is something that the players feed off. We know how excited he gets about us making a good read or a good defensive set and we obviously want that reaction from him.”

You are one of a few new dads in the DHL Stormers squad, how has fatherhood treated you so far and does it help to have teammates going through the same thing?

“It is very rewarding, with the long-term injury if I was younger and didn’t have a kid then I would be much more impatient and try to rush or force the rehab process because you want to get back on the field as quickly as possible. But having the little one at home, you miss quite a lot when you are not at home, so that brings quite a lot of perspective for you. It is a natural thing to slow down and enjoy the time that you get to spend at home. With the other guys in the squad who have also recently had kids I am one of the lucky ones because I am a little bit behind everyone else, so whatever we are going through it is a quick question about ‘why does this happen ‘ and then you get some good advice.”

As a former Sevens player, what are you like now as a BlitzBok fan?

“With Phillip (Snayman) and Sticks (Sandile Ngcobo) in charge, I played with Phillip and Sticks and I were in the Academy together. To have seen them grow into the roles they have now in that system is good. They are sitting with a lot of youngsters who still need to learn some hard lessons. I’m a fan now, but knowing a bit more about what happens on the inside I think people can be quite harsh because they look purely at the results. But it is such a high-performance and cut-throat environment that the smallest of mistakes can cost you tournaments. The majority of the squad are quite young and still learning while on the World Series stage. As fans we have grown accustomed to the team winning tournaments, but in the same breath, you need to realise there are a lot of new guys coming in who are learning big lessons at an early stage, so we need to learn to have patience as supporters and they will get there.”

How involved have you been with the team since your injury? Do you try to keep up to date with what is going on or prefer to focus on your rehab?

“I like to be around the team and the guys. In rehab when you isolate yourself completely from the team that’s when you go through those dark times. You are feeling alone and completely away from it all. But to come in a bit earlier than when your programme suggests you should start, you are having conversations with the guys and quick catch-up coffees it helps with your mental state. That is exactly what rehab is, it is more of a mental challenge than a physical challenge. I will get through the gym sessions, but to have guys supporting you through conversations and building relationships, those are actually the things that keep you going.”