It is a numbers game for young JD
It is a numbers game for young JDSHARE
John Dave Schickerling may only be 19, but he is already a giant of the game.
Despite still having sat on the school benches last year, earlier this month he bestrode New Zealand's rugby fields like a colossus during the IRB Junior World Championships.
Not just was the gargantuan second row forward (202cm and 108kg) a line-out poacher of note (five steals in the Final against England), but he was a key figure in the South African Under-20 team's back-to-back victories over their arch rivals, the Kiwis.
It is not difficult to see why the youngster described the tournament as the greatest experience of his life.
The kudos heaped on him, after the completion of the global showpiece for juniors, are justifiable according to Baby Bok coach Dawie Theron – who used him as a No.4 lock, rather than his more accustomed position at No.5.
"I feel that you could play JD [Schickerling] at No.8 or No.7 and he will be just as good," Theron said of the prodigy.
Describing the former Paarl Gimnasium scholar as a born footballer, Theron explained that the young giant was played in the front of the line-out as part of his "development".
"We played the combination like that because Nicolaas [Janse van Rensburg] did the [line-out] calling for us and he was the more senior player," the SA U20 mentor said.
"That was needed, because there was massive pressure. JD can easily play at No.5 for us next year and then make the calls. He has learnt from Nicolaas and at certain times in some of the games he also made calls."
Describing it as all part of the process, Theron said: "We forget sometimes that, while we are playing these massive 'Tests', we are also busy developing these players.
"We have to bring these players through, that is why he played at No.4.
"I also feel there isn't another No.4 lock in the country that would have been able to contest those balls in the front, with a one-man lift, the way he and [his support player, prop] Thomas du Toit did," the Junior Bok coach said of the young man's stand-out performance.
Schickerling, who was abroad for the first time in his life, described the step up from schoolboy level (in 2013) to international U20 rugby this year as "massive", even though he made the transition look so seamless.
"In terms of fitness, tempo, basically everything it is on a whole new level," he told rugby365.
He admitted that it was "bitterly disappointing" to give his everything and not win the tournament – where SA suffered a one-point (20-21) loss to England in the Final.
"However, it builds you and helps improve you as a player," he said, adding: "To beat New Zealand twice is already an enormous achievement, but I was bitterly disappointed with our one-point loss to England.
"We felt we were better than them, but it was not to be on the day."
He described as "minor errors" the reason for their loss in the tournament's grand finale.
"No matter how tough it is, you will come out a stronger person on the other side," Schickerling said, describing the Bay Boks team as a brotherhood.
Asked about his immediate goals, the young man who still qualifies to play in the domestic Under-19 competition, said he hopes to get into the Western Province Under-21 squad .
"It would be a privilege if the call comes, but if I don't make it I would be happy to just play Under-19."
By Jan de Koning
* Don't forget to return for the remainder of Jan de Koning's chat with SA U20 coach Dawie Theron, when he speaks of the clash of titans (South Africa versus New Zealand), the Baby Boks that will be back next year and the prospects of a four-nations Rugby Championship style tournament for juniors