As the high-performance manager of South Africa’s national sevens rugby team, the Blitzboks, and having played for them for 10 years, Marius Schoeman knows a bit about finding and developing sporting talent.
Who better than Schoeman to lend his name to a school sports festival aimed at giving talented youngsters the chance 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,” says Schoeman of the name of the Marius Schoeman Sports Festival. One of the largest schoolboy sevens rugby festivals in the world, the event is now in its third year. It is hosted annually at Schoeman’s alma mater Paarl Gymnasium.
Approached by Jean Stemmet, Paarl Gimnasium’s marketing manager, Schoeman took a bit of convincing but once they’d agree on the 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 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 Schoeman.
The event is made possible due to the backing of title sponsor, the Amdec Group
Schoeman’s own story parallels the lives of many of the Be the Difference (a foundation striving for positive youth development) players who are growing up in single-parent households where there isn’t enough to go around and daily meals are not guaranteed.
Schoeman lost his father in a family tragedy when he was six.
“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.”
When Schoeman was scouted to go to Paarl Gimnasium, it wasn’t easy to fit in.
“Like all top schools, there’s a lot of history and tradition, so being from a poor background exposed me to negative comments and being looked down on for all the wrong reasons. But I wasn’t too fazed. I kept my eye on the prize. My goal was to make sure I could look after my mother and family one day,” he recalls.
Several Be the Difference players were scouted last year and given bursaries, which includes Durbanville High School’s Tyrurick Johannes.
Be the Difference players were also scouted for tertiary institutions. They include Franck Kolanji, who has joined the SA Sevens Academy.
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