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Humble beginnings to high performance leader

As high performance manager of the world-beating South African Sevens Rugby team, the Blitzbokke, and having played for them for 10 years, Marius Schoeman knows a bit about finding and developing sporting talent.

Who better then to lend his name to a school sports festival aimed at giving talented youngsters the opportunity to compete and showcase their talents in the presence of provincial and national scouts and coaches?

“It’s a great honour, but also a bit embarrassing,” Marius laughs, about the name of the Marius Schoeman Sports Festival - considered to be one of the largest schoolboy sevens rugby festivals in the world - now in its third year and hosted annually at his alma mater Paarl Gymnasium. Approached by Jean Stemmet, Paarl Gym’s Marketing Manager, it took a bit of convincing but once they’d agree on the end goal of the event and the outcomes they wanted to achieve, the project gained momentum.

The event has grown exponentially, and this year’s Sevens rugby format was expanded to include short formats of other codes - Fast-5 Netball and Fast-5 Hockey. This meant girls could take part for the first time, and it was a great success.

The Sevens rugby featured 50 schools and 72 teams; 24 schools entered 48 teams in the Fast-Five Netball and Fast-Five Hockey; totalling nearly 1 500 participants.

“The plan has always been to include Sevens rugby for girls and this will probably happen next year. We included girls in the Fast-5 formats this year and the feedback was great, so this competition will expand,” says Marius.

Marius’ own story parallels the lives of many of the Be the Difference players who are growing up in single parent households where there isn’t enough to go around and daily meals are not guaranteed. He picks up the story.

“I lost my father when I was six, in a family tragedy, so we were brought up by my mom. We had very little, lived in a small rented house and had to rely on the kindness of strangers for school fees. My mother gave everything she had for my sake. Dinner was often a slice of bread with butter and sugar, and I remember wearing size 8 hand-me-down shoes until they fell apart… even though I was already a size 9! But looking back, I appreciate my past because it shaped who I am and how I view the world.”

Today, he lives by a simple philosophy, having been afforded many chances in his life and career thus far. “Every day I see how opportunities like the ones I’d been given can literally change a life; I want to be that person who contributes – even in the smallest way – to making change happen wherever I might have some influence.”

The event has raised sufficient funds to send two disadvantaged players to Paarl Gimnasium, in the past two years. Kyle Smith and Immanual Prinsloo, both of Lochnerhof Primary in Strand, will be attending Paarl Gimnasium, based on outstanding performances in the u-12 rugby tournament.

An u-17 invitational development team took to the field for the first time this year in the shape of the Amdec Blitz, funded by and named after the Amdec Group, main sponsors of the tournament for the second year running.

The squad is drawn from Be the Difference foundation, which helps children from areas in the Western Cape ravaged by drugs, gangsterism and violence, by uplifting them through sport, nutrition, education and social programmes.

The Amdec Blitz team is coached by professional players: Springbok Sevens Academy coach and former Blitzbok, Sandile “Stix” Ngcobo, Stormers and Western Province players Craig Barry and Brandon Valentyn, and Bernardo Botha, a former Blitzbok and Boland player.

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