Vodacom United Rugby Championship, the perfect breeding ground for future Springboks
Young Gun Salmaan Moerat is ready to take on the world
Salmaan Moerat was on the DHL Stormers’ team bus and they were traveling from Edinburgh to Cardiff on the next leg of their Vodacom United Rugby Championship campaign when he received the phone call. Not any phone call. The phone call that a 23-year-old rising rugby star dreams of receiving, and one which in turn offers a ringing endorsement of the value the new Vodacom United Rugby Championship can add to the South African game.
It was Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber. He was phoning to let Moerat know he’d been selected to join the Springboks on their end-of-year tour to the United Kingdom. But in delivering the news, the head coach had one condition. “He told me on the phone call that at that stage it was unofficial and he was just letting me know. So I couldn’t tell anybody about it until they announced it officially. I had to sit on the team bus and try and control myself. I just started thanking the Lord in my head,” says Moerat as he packs his bags on the eve of flying out to eventually join the squad in Paris.
“You know, it’s something I’ve always dreamt about. It is such a special moment for me and my family. When it was announced in the media, I was so overcome by all the messages of support and love from everybody.”
It is entirely apt that Moerat, who has for some time now been in the line of sight for Springbok selectors, should receive his call-up during the Vodacom United Rugby Championship. It was on this tour that he further developed his leadership qualities as captain of the Stormers. It’s proof of the competition’s ability to help develop the next generation of Springboks, and Moerat is in no doubt as to the value the competition holds for South African rugby in the future.
“The Vodacom United Rugby Championship is the perfect breeding ground for South African rugby players. You play against the best players in the world up north, and as a young player you want that. Week in and week out you play against players that have represented the British and Irish Lions. That’s what you want as a professional rugby player seeking to make your own breakthrough and get national selection.”
Moerat certainly took advantage of the opportunity provided and embraced the triumphs and the challenges on tour.
“It was a fantastic experience. It’s a different brand of rugby up north compared to Vodacom Super Rugby. It’s really challenging in different facets of the game such as in the set pieces. Your kicking game needs to be up to standard, and the players are a lot more disciplined. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I think it will suit the South African brand of rugby.”
It’s been the platform from which Moerat now hopes to launch an equally successful Springbok career. And it’s a career that has been building in his mind since he was a boy, then in his time representing Western Province during high school, and throughout his time playing for and captaining the SA Schools team and the Junior Boks. It’s also a dream which his father Nazeem inspired.
“Ever since I started playing at the age of 12 I always admired the Springboks and everything around professional rugby. I was in awe of the players. It’s something I’ve always dreamt of. My father was always a great inspiration for me. He represented the South African Rugby Union and Western Province in the period of isolation, and I always drew inspiration from him. Just because of his pure passion for the game, and the history that comes with South African rugby pre unity. It was special for me to now have accomplished this because I’m living out my dream, but at the same time what would also have been his dream. My father always reminds me to be grateful and not take anything for granted because he never had those opportunities.
“My mom and dad were so happy for me. The day I phoned to tell them my mom started crying, and for me that was the most rewarding part. To see the gratitude and happiness it brings them.”
Now Moerat will begin his journey as a Springbok. And he knows exactly how he wants to approach it.
“In my opinion, there isn’t a better place to be as a young South African player coming through the ranks. I’m with players who are world champions and who have just beaten the British and Irish Lions. I’m going on this tour to learn as much as I can from an experienced group of players. And hopefully I can put my hand up and get an opportunity to play for my country.”
The bold new world of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship heralds an exciting era for South African rugby, delivering international club rugby of the highest standard and showcasing the very best that rugby has to offer.
The tournament tagline – ‘It’s a different league’ – has rung true for young Salmaan Moerat, giving him the platform to get one step closer to realising his dream of becoming a Springbok.
Follow all the Vodacom #URC action on @VodacomRugga.