He barely had time to celebrate winning the 2018 Varsity Cup properly before setting off on his next adventure. But given a moment to reflect, Chris Smith says that being a Matie is the best thing that could have happened to him.
Smith joined the Pumas in Nelspruit on the Tuesday after winning his first Varsity Cup. He started playing for Maties in 2014.
“My time at Maties has been something of a rollercoaster, with many ups and a number of downs,” he said, “but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I loved every moment and have so many memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life, and so many stories that will definitely be discussed around a campfire in 20 years time.
“Through the few downs I experienced at Maties – such as getting injured at the end of 2014 which left me side-lined for about 8 months and having to start from the bottom to work my way back into the starting team for the club, to losing in two Varsity Cup finals in a row (2016 and 2017) – I learnt a number of lessons, such as being patient, having work ethic and a lot of perseverance.
“I also learnt that good things come to those who wait. I kept on working hard and was rewarded with a gold medal at the end of Varsity Cup 2018.”
Smith added that being a student in addition to being an athlete forces one to learn discipline as well as how to balance academics with performing on the field.
Recommending Stellenbosch University is a given. “To start with, US is a great university, with the most unbelievable campus. Secondly, Maties Rugby is the biggest rugby club in the world and the proudest.
“The memories you make on and off the field at US and Maties Rugby is something I wish all aspiring rugby players could experience. And being able to achieve a degree at a recognised university and play rugby at the same time … is something special.”
Like for many others who had to say goodbye to Maties over the years, Smith believes the people at Maties is what makes this club different. “The coaching staff, management and all the players are what makes it different and such a special place. The culture that has been created over the years has made Maties rugby club almost a second home for many of us players.”
Playing a last match almost never ends in a fairy tale. But Smith ended it the only way he would have liked to.
“Even though my biggest highlight is definitely winning the Varsity Cup this year, I think the journey as a whole has been a highlight and has shaped me into the person I am today. All the memories and friendships made along the way are ones that I will hold close to my heart.”
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