Dan van Zyl: From ball-boy to Springbok to Director of Rugby

Born in Pretoria, from the age of 5, rugby was just part of Dan van Zyl’s life. Every Tuesday & Saturday, he was a ball-boy at the great Loftus Versfeld. His dad played club rugby and these things merely cemented his love of rugby from an early age.

He actually played primary & secondary level Provincial Cricket but not rugby! At Pretoria University, Dan played for the U19 & U20 A sides, represented Northern Transvaal U20s & played club rugby with the now defunct Osterlike Rugby Club. He bounced from 3rds to 1sts and within 3 weeks of that, was selected for the N.Transvaal senior squad.

After playing for N. Transvaal from 92 – 95, he was surprisingly dropped.and returned to the other love in his life, Cricket. He played in England for the county side, Shropshire and returned to SA in late Sep 95. Dan turned professional in 1996 when rugby itself became professional but he was still playing cricket for N.Transvaal Titans at the same time.

He represented the Bulls in Super Rugby and also played against the British & Irish Lions. His inevitable call up to the Springboks side came in late 97 for the tour to UK, France & Italy. His first Bok game was against the French Barbarians and he was on the bench v Scotland, France & England. In 2000, he toured again and earned his 1st full cap v England. Back in the day, you were never awarded a cap unless you actually took the field & obviously in a qualified Test game. Dan had another 11 occasions where he was also on the bench and he played 5 midweek games for the Boks captaining them twice! He IS Springbok No 665. How many of us would take that…… to both play AND to captain your country!!

He retired young in 2002 & came to Ireland to coach. He has been at Carlow & Clontarf in the All Ireland League (AIL) Div 1, became a Development Officer at Leinster Rugby. He has coached Leinster U18s/Youths and the Woman’s squads. He has twice been involved in coaching the Irish Youths squad in 2009 – 10 and again from 2016 – 18 plus the Irish Students team.

In Sep 2018, alongside international coach & fellow World Rugby Educator, Johan TAYLOR they opened up Rugby Academy Ireland, a pioneering independent international rugby academy collocated at the 4* Killashee Hotel in Kildare, Ireland. It is aimed at helping aspiring players enhance their rugby and lifestyle skills, through practical training and a bespoke curriculum, equipping students with an excellent education and the qualifications needed to begin a career in professional rugby.

Expected career pathways for academy graduates included;
Professional or Semi-Professional Rugby Player / Coach or Referee
Strength & Conditioning Coach
SAQ Coach Sports Analyst
Club Administrator/Manager

For Dan, this is a dream come true, continuing his love of rugby AND developing the next generation of youngsters. For more information, contact;
[email protected]

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Juandre Joubert