I have always been toying with the thought of what will be better; having young talented players go through an apprenticeship and become mature as player before they enter the big stage, or if they are good enough they are old enough?
There is merit for both, or at least to a large extent the thought of ‘if he is good enough he is old enough’ counted when rugby was still an amateur sport.
Personally I find it alarming however on just how immature some of our rugby players are – especially the younger ones.
Not immature in the sense of being childish (although it does apply at times), but more to the extent of being mentally mature.
In the older days or amateur days, we found that apart from being provincial and even national rugby stars, players still held down a day-job. Something they have more often than not studied for and also something that through the up’s and down’s of a professional career we all experience, made them more mature or grown-up being able to handle situations, or life, better.
It reminds me a lot of a saying I heard awhile back, being that; “Toe ek ‘n kind was, het ek die dinge van ‘n kind gedoen”, meaning that you acted like a kid when you were still a kid, but at some stage, normally through normal life experiences, you grow up.
It hit home again after I read an interview with Robert Ebersohn following the George Sevens which the Sevens Boks won, and where he was crowned player of the tournament.
Now Robert decided to spend a season with the Sevens Boks, rather than joining up with his provincial franchise the Cheetahs and play Super 14.
Robert mentions in the interview that although it is every single player’s dream to represent the Boks, he believes his career will be better off if he goes through the ‘stepping stone’ of Sevens rugby first to help him mature more as a player.
Wow, now there is something you don’t hear everyday especially from a youngster in pro-rugby who by anyone’s standards earns a lot of money and in the view of us fans, lives a charmed life!
But the mere fact that Robert recognised that he is not quite ready for top-flight rugby like Super 14 and that he has to mature in his game still and work on his overall skills, tells me this kid looked at his career, identified his weaknesses and made a mature, grown-up decision about what is best for his career in the long run. Not being charmed by money or status and signing with a Super 14 franchise of which I am sure any of the 5 South African franchises would want him on their books.
Robert decided to do his apprenticeship, to take the longer, sometimes, harder road – which will no doubt put him in good stead in years to come where most youngsters his age will be burnt-out, or written off because of one or six bad games, or one or two bad seasons.
Now take that attitude, and compare that to a Frans Steyn.
A player who seemingly insists in only wanting to play in certain positions, even though he is but a spring chicken in the rugby world with more than just a couple of weaknesses! Compare the mental maturity of the two and then ask yourself why some are already writing a Steyn off while just about everyone is predicting a bright future for young Ebersohn?
Everyone of us agrees that Steyn is a prodigious talent, the likes of what you don’t see everyday. Just last week we discussed what to do with Steyn in 2009.
I believed then as I do now, Steyn needs to lay low for a while. He is not better than any incumbent Bok and by insisting in doing things his way, he might well be digging his own rugby grave.
Steyn might be a World Cup winning Bok, but he too still needs a ‘stepping stone’ to reach a level of maturity only achieved by doing a type of apprenticeship.
Mentally young Steyn is naive, inexperienced and immature. All that does change with experience and time, but for now it is all about how Steyn is going to manage himself in getting to the point where he can be the best in the world.
And a look at the mature, responsible and honest decision Ebersohn made with his career might be a good start for young Steyn.Tweet