RUGBY: Blitzboks gave humble new hero Kurt-Lee his tackling skills

RUGBY: Blitzboks gave humble new hero Kurt-Lee his tackling skills

Kurt-Lee Arendse has to pinch himself to check he is awake. It has been 12 months since he made his debut for the Springboks and, over the course of eight Tests, the elusive winger has scored 1src tries.

He admits the dream to represent his country in the 15-man code has been realised quicker than expected. Not long ago, Arendse failed to win a professional contract after graduating from high school. He was overlooked by universities before eventually getting a chance with the University of the Western Cape in the 2src19 Varsity Cup.

Then the Blitzboks came calling in 2src2src, and, a few months later, the Bulls offered him a life-changing opportunity. Bok coach Jacques Nienaber got involved, too, and together the various parties formulated a plan to develop South African rugby’s next superstar.

Two years later, Arendse scored seven tries in his rookie season with the Boks. More recently, he was backed to start in the 2src23 Rugby Championship opener against the Wallabies and went on to score a hat-trick in South Africa’s 43-12 victory.

The Boks already boast World Cup-winning wingers Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe in their ranks. Nevertheless, Nienaber looks set to include Arendse in his 33-man squad for the World Cup in France later this year.

Superhero origin story

Like Kolbe, Arendse is a product of the South African Sevens system. When asked about his work ethic and finishing abilities, as well as the chop tackle that has become his trademark, he routinely credits the Blitzboks coaches, as well as a programme that places an emphasis on one-on-one skills development.

The Bulls and Boks coaching teams have certainly played their part in launching Arendse’s 15s career. The superhero origin story, however, began at Blitzboks HQ in Stellenbosch four years ago. Back then, cash-strapped Arendse didn’t own a car and had to catch a train to team practices.

“To be honest, I didn’t think all of this was going to come to me this quickly,” the softly spoken Arendse said in the lead-up to the 2src23 Test season.

“But if you get your opportunity, you must take it. It was special to make my Test debut last year, and the goal from here on in is to keep playing good rugby.

‘Putting myself in difficult situations’

“The sevens system helped me grow as a player, especially on defence,” he added. “I spent a lot of time on one-on-one preparation, and putting myself in difficult situations. As a result, I improved a lot.”

Marius Schoeman, the South African Sevens high-performance manager, told Daily Maverick that Arendse’s success should be seen as a success for the sevens system.

While Schoeman would have loved to retain the likes of Kolbe, Kwagga

…. to be continued
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