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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Young Player of the Year Canan Moodie will keep Springbok debut close to his heart

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Cape Town — Missing out on the national Under-18 rugby week would have been a difficult situation to handle for Canan Moodie.

A few years later, though, he was not only signed by the Bulls after matriculating from the Boland Agricultural School, but scored a try on Test debut for the Springboks against the Wallabies in Sydney — and just this week, was named as the 2022 SA Rugby Young Player of the Year.

And while all his coaches have helped him along the way, one of his biggest influencers was closer to home in Amstelhof, Paarl.

“From the perspective of moving to the Bulls, my high school coach, Oloff Bergh — he was the one that put me in touch with coach Nollis (Marais) and directing all that stuff,” Moodie said.

“But for me, going through the Covid-19 (period) and working hard and seeing my true character, was probably my older brother, Keanu. He didn’t force me, but he was always there to work hard and always pushed me past my limits and to be better and go harder.

“He was the one who would be there to support me, and from day one, we would always stick together. We always had this dream that we were going to make it and be successful, so we worked hard every day. Lots of sacrifices had to be made, but at the end of the day, it all worked out.

“It’s a massive honour and privilege for me as a player to win this award. It’s a very prestigious award — players like Eben (Etzebeth) have won it before — so for me to have gotten this is very special.

“It’s a nod to the season I’ve had, and it’s humbling for me to have been chosen as there are a lot of great players like Evan (Roos), Jaden (Hendrikse), Sacha (Feinberg-Mngomezulu) and Henco (van Wyk) also being nominated. It’s pretty special to top off the past season with this award.”

It’s no surprise that older brother Keanu had such a positive effect on him, as he is a top-class long-jump athlete in his own right for Boland.

And after a memorable first Test against Australia, where he scored a superb try when beating Marika Koroibete in a high-ball contest, his family shared in the joy and a video of their celebrations went viral.

“I’m getting goosebumps again thinking about it! It was a very special and emotional week. I had a job to do, and the coaches and players alongside me trusted me and always helped me in certain things if I didn’t know something, and just gave me pep talks in what I could expect of the game and how the atmosphere was going to be,” Moodie said.

“But once you touch that ball for the first time, you feel at home and everything just clicks for you — the whole emotions and the nerves go away.

“It was special to top it off with the try as well, and speaking to my family and all of them going crazy — you probably saw the video as well! Everyone was very happy, and even to this day, when I see the people at home, they remind me of that and say that it was very, very special. It’s a day that I will always keep close to my heart.”


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