It’s not often that this writer’s alma mater, Pretoria Boys High School, sends rugby players down to Sharks country. When they do, though, it generally turns out well, using current Bok captain John Smit as an example. Young loose forward Lee Thompson is another Boys High Boy making his way up the Sharks ranks and we were lucky enough to catch up with him for a quick chat.
It’s always been difficult for the English kids in Pretoria to get a look-in rugbywise, mainly due to the fact that the sport is generally only offered by the English high schools in the area. The Afrikaans kids have generally had a good seven or more extra years of practice by the time the English kids start to play and that tends to be prove too great a hurdle to overcome when it comes to representative selection. We asked Lee how he managed to overcome this problem. “I was born in Port Elizabeth and lived there till I was 12,” Lee tells us. “We then moved to Pretoria, where I finished my last year of primary school and then attended Pretoria Boys High.I played rugby from grade one. I was the only English player in the 1st team which was sometimes awkward. I then stopped for one year when I moved to a primary school in Pretoria, because they had soccer instead of rugby, but started again at Boys High.”
We asked Lee what made him decide to start rugby at such a young age, and whether he’s always played the same position. “Well I was always very sporty and tried to get involved in as much as possible but I just always liked rugby from watching it on TV and when I played for the 1st time there was no turning back.I was always a forward and moved from hooker to lock to flank.” He admits that is rugby career at Boys High, didn’t et off to the ideal start, though, despite the advantage of his previous experience. “After the trails for the form ones I was put in the e/f squad and had to work my way up slowly!” he tells us. “I ended up playing first team for two years though, under the coaching of Adrian Simmons and [current Bulls under 19 coach] Paul Anthony – both awesome coaches. I played lock and flank but because I was heavier than the other flanks I played lock most of the time (for the scrum) but was used a lot as a ball carrier.
Lee continues, “in 2006 we had a decent season, beating Kearnsey away and Maritzburg College at home. In 2007 we beat Waterkloof away, drew to Affies at home and were the team to come the closest to beating an unbeaten Grey College team. I also captained the 1st team in 2007. After the 2007 Craven Week trials I was selected [for the Bulls team] but was 3 weeks to old to play for that side, so I played for the Blue Bulls U19 invitational team instead. Missing Craven Week wasn’t ideal, but things have a way of working themselves out sometimes!”
So how did he end up with the Sharks, then? “What happened is after Matric, I was invited to the Bulls academy in Pretoria and to the Zululand Rugby Academy in KZN. I had to make a difficult decision. I believe God was telling me to go to KZN, so I decided to attend the Zululand Academy in Empangeni. I decided in the beginning of matric that I was going to make rugby my career. I made a few promises to myself before I left for KZN and don’t want to break them – basically that I was going to do anything I had to, to put on that black and white jersey.” So was it always Lee’s goal to play for the Sharks? “To be honest I was always a Bulls supporter,” he admits, ” but since moving over here in 2008 my blood isn’t blue anymore, that’s for sure!
“Towards the end of the season, we then had Sharks under 21trials and I managed to make that team. I made it the following year again and then made the Sharks XV team at the beginning of the year and I am currently in the Sharks XV squad for 2011″
We asked Lee if he was satisfied with his progress thus far. “I am,” he tells us “but I don’t ever want to get too comfortable with what I’ve achieved as I believe if you do that you tend to stop achieving. Each season I need to be better and achieve more than the previous one. My goal for this year is to become a regular starter in the Sharks XV team and after the Vodacom Cup to make the Currie Cup squad. I just need to make things happen now. This is an important season!”
We asked Lee to elaborate a little on what he feels his strengths and weaknesses are, as he looks to nail down the white and black number 7 jersey for the 2011 season. “I believe I can make an impact with my ball carrying and high work rate,” he tells us “I would like to play like Juan Smith and Jean Deysel. Their ball carrying ability and fearless approach to the game is to be admired. I need to work a bit more on my speed and you can never be fit enough I guess.”
We’d like to thank Lee for his time and wish him all the best for the 2011 season with the Sharks.Tweet