Rugby or life: Choose one
Mon, 14 Jul 2014 13:29
Quotas and political interference is another new stumbling block
Rugby is life for many young players, the professional era offers them a career and earning potential, but what happens when rugby runs out?
Darryn Pollock sat down with former Springbok tighthead prop Marius Hurter to discuss the career that rugby can offer a young player, but also the dangers it can present to those who are unprepared.
Hurter, who made 13 appearances for the Springboks from 1995 to 1997, including playing in the successful 1995 World Cup campaign, is now a qualified attorney practicing in Stellenbosch.
The former Blue Bulls, Western Province and Lions man could not stress enough the importance of preparing oneself for a career through rugby as well as after rugby, because, as it goes, all good things must come to an end.
Hurter, a University of Pretoria Hall of famer, began his career like many young Afrikaans boys do, with a firm hand.
"The Afrikaans culture has always been that you have to play rugby, as a winter sport, a summer sport - it does not matter," Hurter said of his rugby genesis.
"I was always intrigued by rugby, I fitted the mold since I was six, I was destined for the front row.
"I played tighthead prop since I was six until I was 36, never played another position, it was always part of my life.
"My Dad was obviously a big influence, and rugby brought me many things and took me many places.
"I played Craven Week and all that - for me, my size was helpful to my growth as a player.
"I was always part of the A-teams and always got the better coaching, as such it was a bit easier."
With Craven Week on at the moment, many youngsters will be looking to impress enough for someone to come to them with the golden goose that is a professional rugby contract; Hurter got that chance, but warns that it is not an easy road.
Hurter attests, as many players will, that getting ahead in rugby takes more than just talent and skill.
The external factors of selection and progression can make or break a person.
Those influences can be detrimental to a person who puts all their eggs in one basket in terms of a rugby career choice.
"As you get to higher levels and start playing professionally, there are a lot more variables that come into it," Hurter continued.
"There has to be an opportunity, the coach has got to like you, you have to be in good condition, you have to avoid injuries, you sometimes need some luck - if there is someone better than you, maybe they get injured and you have a shot - quotas and political interference is another new stumbling block.
"I got my chances, I was the right mold for what was needed, but after school and after my two years military service I started studying law."
Hurter's decision to study law he feels was the right one, but not the easy one.
"I started studying law in 1991 at Pukke in Potchefstroom, in 1994 I got invited by John Williams, then the Blue Bulls or Northern Transvaal coach to come and play for the Bulls in 1995 - and that is where the whole thing kicked-off with the World Cup," Hurter went on.
"I played one year in 1994 with the Bulls, then got selected for the Boks in 1995 and that was my lucky break.
"That was the realization for me that this is it, I need to make the best of it and make a career out of it - although I had studied law and was a qualified attorney - now it was going to be all about rugby - I had a good degree and educational platform."
Playing in the World Cup and representing his country at the highest level, Hurter knew that a time would come when he could no longer rely on rugby and he would have to go back to his degree and start working.
"I knew that the money I was earning from rugby was not going to be enough to retire from, so I would have to make a decision to break with rugby and start work as an attorney, which was hugely stressful," Hurter said.
"It was a career transformation, suddenly you are playing as a professional rugby player and then you have to practice as an attorney.
"People around you, your competition, all have 14 years experience on you and it is not an easy game - they are not going to employ me just because I am Marius Hurter."
As a successful attorney, that can still reminisce about his playing days with a smile on his face, Hurter leaves an important message for those young players who are looking into rugby as a career path as well as those players who are at Craven Week at the moment - always have a fall-back plan.
"Personally, from what I know, you need more than rugby," Hurter concluded.
"If you are positive about playing rugby, you would like to think that rugby is your career, but in most cases it is not - you will have to study something, you will have to have something to fall back on when rugby comes to an end - a business, a family tie, a profession, or a degree.
"Otherwise it is not going to work for you - it is only a couple guys who will make it out on the back of their professional career.
"Even if you are a good player, there are still so many things that need to go right for you to be successful, and even then, that short time span may not be enough to see you through the rest of your life."
WRITERS FOOTNOTE: This aspect of rugby is not something that is new, but is something that is often overlooked. In 2012, Ross van Reenen wrote 'From Locker Room to Boardroom - Converting rugby talent into business success'. Follow the links below to read the three-part interview and book review that Jan de Koning did with Van Reenen.
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