Western Province scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies is ‘n lekker ou.
He’s the type of guy that can joke about being told he’s too “tall” for a fullback and then having to make the switch to scrumhalf.
In that same year, as a Grade 11 student at Paul Roos, he was also overlooked after the first Western Province Craven Week trials.
The now 22-year-old felt back then that his rugby career was possibly hitting a stop sign.
But fate intervened and head of the WP School of Excellence at the time, Hennie Bekker, phoned up his school to ask Jantjies to come to the next round of trials.
He ended up being the number one scrumhalf for two years running and never looked back.
Jantjies recalls that week leading up to the final trials after being left out: “I felt so bad after being left out, it felt like my rugby career was down the drain. But when Oom Hennie phoned, I knew this was my big chance.”
Second chances are rare.
But through his faith, Jantjies believed his day would come and when it did, he was going to make the most of it.
The Kylemore resident explains: “Where I come from, I could easily have blamed my environment [for not being successful].
“It’s not always easy for people from Kylemore to succeed and that’s why if they succeed in business, sports or whatever, it’s always nice to see.
“That was my motivation.
“If I can just inspire one youngster to do something great, then it’s mission accomplished.
“For that I have to thank my parents - if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have been there. It [Kylemore] is part of who I am and where I come from and you can’t look past that.”
While his performances for Western Province in this year’s Currie Cup have everyone raving about his abilities, Jantjies credits his heroes from back in the day.
Having starred for the University of the Western Cape in the Varsity Shield this year, he had the opportunity to rub shoulders with one of them - former WP and Springbok scrumhalf Bolla Conradie, who is also the assistant coach at the varsity.
Of their relationship, Jantjies says: “I learned a lot from him.
“We spoke the other day and he told me of his days at the Stormers.
“I never thought I would have an encounter with him.”
Jantjies is still busy writing his story as a rugby player, but he has come a long way to get to where he is.
He thanks his parents for the education they have given him and would like to encourage other youngsters to learn as much as possible, have the drive to succeed and have faith.
Jantjies explains: “The drive has to be there [to succeed].
“If you are willing to learn every day, you can’t go wrong.
“For me [it’s important] to stick to your religion - even if the path is rocky, the best guys in the world also had bad days.
“They don’t just get to the top overnight.
“[Bok scrumhalf] Embrose Papier is an inspiration to me because of where he comes from and making it to the top as a Springbok.”
With Jano Vermaak unavailable for this weekend’s north/south derby against the Blue Bulls, Jantjies will be hoping to be one of the names on coach John Dobson’s team sheet.
If he cracks the nod, he will face Papier and a good showing in that game might go a long way in raising his stocks in SA Rugby.