Promising 23-year-old Western Province scrumhalf Conrad Hoffman is one of only three senior players who will be joining the Sharks squad ahead of the 2011 season. “Hoffies” has been in Durban, training with his new team mates for the last 3 weeks and Sharksworld caught up with him for a quick chat last week.
Sharksworld: Welcome to the Sharks, Conrad. Can you tell us how you’re settling in so far?
Conrad Hoffman: At the moment I’m settled in – living in Glenashley temporarily. It’s my third week here and I’m really enjoying it. It’s a really relaxed vibe – far more relaxed than other unions but you definitely work hard!
SW: Tell us about yourself – where did you grow up and how did you get to where you are now?
CH: I’m originally from Robertson – it’s a little platteland wine village in the Boland – it’s a very small town. I went to school in Paarl – Paarl Boys High – although I wasn’t really a keen rugby player all my life. I did play Craven Week for Western Province in matric and it basically all started there. Then I went to Stellenbosch and I played SA Under 19 – that was in 2006. I also played Western Province Under 19 and was contracted as a junior and after that I was drafted for the SA Sevens team. I broke my arm at one of the training camps, though, so couldn’t play for them! In 2007 I stared playing Currie Cup. I had a major setback in 2008, though, when I had a hip operation. I was out for about 12 months with that. I actually had a groin operation in the January of that year, but when Bolla Conradie was injured, I was called up to play for the Stormers. I never really recovered though, and suffered from chronic joint pain, so after that I had to have the hip operation. I was out for pretty much the whole 2008 season and had a really difficult season in 2009 as I struggled to make it back. Then this year I played Vodacom Cup and Currie Cup for Western Province.
SW: And what made you decide to leave Western Province and head down to the Sharks at this point in your career?
CH: It was a bigger decision than you think – because it’s a whole change of lifestyle and a change of culture. I just felt that for my career and my future, this was best, because I got into a bit of a comfort zone in Cape Town – all my friends and family are there – and so when I heard of the opportunity at the Sharks, I thought it was definitely time for something new. I’m really excited about the new opportunity, though – what I’ve seen in these last three weeks makes me realise that this is really something to look forward to.
SW: Did the structures at Western Province make it difficult for a young player to get recognized and progress?
CH: I think the structures at Western Province for developing young players – what with the WP Academy and everything – are very good. Maybe it’s more a case of not often getting a lot of chances to prove yourself. When I got injured, I never really got back into it – I was never really back in favour. They always told me that I was talented, but I never really played! And that’s why I decided to move and start fresh.
SW: Are you primarily a scrumhalf? Is that your preferred position?
CH: In high school and SA under 19 I played scrumhalf – in fact, pretty much my whole career. So basically – I am a scrumhalf, but I’m a ball player – I can play fullback and I can play flyhalf. I can basically play anything, but my preferred position is scrumhalf.
SW: Do you think it’s a little dangerous to be versatile? That you might end up being branded a “utility player” and be unable to cement a single position?
CH: I don’t really think so – in a team environment, it’s never really dangerous to be able to play more than one position because it’s not just about yourself. Obviously, you’ve got to have a preferred position, but if I get into a situation where the team needs me to help in another position, I’ll be able to do that. I have played fullback and flyhalf and a lot of other stuff too! I think I’m actually quite lucky to be able to play a number of positions!
SW: As a scrumhalf, is there anyone you try to model your game on?
CH: Obviously Fourie du Preez is very good, but I really try and play like Neil de Kock, more or less. He was really a good player to me! I don’t really want to be exactly like anyone else, though – I just want to play my own game.
SW: Do you feel there are any aspects of your game that you could improve at the Sharks?
CH: You can never do enough work on your basics – just your passing and kicking skills – but I’m really looking forward to just playing in the position again. To just settle in and be certain you’re playing one position. I’m really looking forward to playing scrumhalf and improving. I’m really excited, though – It’s really great here so far.
SW: What goals have you set yourself for the 2011 season?
CH: Obviously I want to improve season by season. For now, I want to settle in at scrumhalf and player Super 15 this season. I’m not saying I want to take any guy’s position or that I expect to be first choice, but I’m definitely here to compete – not just to make up the numbers in the squad.
SW: You’re a goal-kicker as well?
CH: After my hip operation I missed out on a year or so of kicking, but I have kicked for a lot of the teams I’ve played for. Right now, I feel my goal kicking is really up to standard – I’ve been a goal kicker basically since I started playing rugby and that’s definitely something I can use.
SW: What do you think of the style of rugby the Sharks used in the Currie Cup?
CH: I think the exciting style of rugby that they’re playing is something I really enjoy. I think in the Super 15 as the game is developing now, it’s going to get even faster, so I think the Sharks are definitely on track with their game plan and where they are heading. It’s a very open brand of rugby – where you can really express yourself because it’s not over-structured. I’m going to enjoy it!
We’d like to thank Conrad for his time and wish him all the best for his future with the Sharks.Tweet