The Hurricanes’ South African import, Kobus van Wyk, has opened up on his high-profile move to the New Zealand franchise. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
On 12 November, 10 days after the Springboks’ shock World Cup triumph, the rugby community this side of the equator had to process another shock when the Hurricanes announced the acquisition of Van Wyk from the Sharks.
The 28-year-old speedster had previously played for Western Province and the Stormers before making his way to Durban in 2017. His sudden move to the Hurricanes in Wellington was met with scepticism, especially since New Zealand is the breeding ground for exceptionally skilled outside backs.
But having scored four tries in three games for his new team, including a hat-trick on debut against the Sunwolves, Van Wyk is adamant he has what it takes to become a household name in the Canes’ lineup, even though he has to compete with compatriot Wes Goosen – who emigrated to New Zealand at the age of four with his family – for that right-wing berth.
‘Every player’s dream is to just play, you know, get as much game time under the belt as possible. And it’s even more so when you play in New Zealand. I just want to make a mark. I hadn’t played a lot in South Africa over the last season or two, so I just need to confirm that belief in myself again.
‘I know I’m good enough, but I need to build on the momentum of my first few games for the Hurricanes to get my confidence and self-belief up. I know I’m good enough to make that No 14 jersey my own,’ Van Wyk told SA Rugby magazine as part of a full feature article for the June issue.
As for his journey from Sharks discard to Hurricanes hotshot and everything else in between, the player heaped praise on the Hurricanes for making the Van Wyk family’s transition as easy as possible.
‘The move was a long journey. Travelling with a two-year-old child is tough, but we just about managed to do it. We’ve settled in well, got a nice house. Well, we were set up in an apartment first, but it was impractical because there were just too many stairs and so they moved us to a three-bedroom house in Karori,’ Van Wyk said.
‘The people over here have been so kind to us. The coaches, players and even admin staff have lent a helping hand. They made us feel right at home with dinner invites, and other offers like tagging along with them to church and family-orientated activities and events they attend.
‘Everyone we’ve been fortunate enough to come in contact with, so many good people. Jeez, the Hurricanes players – I won’t mention names because literally all of them have been good to us – have gone out of their way to make us feel at home.
‘Especially during those first two weeks when I had jetlag and had to go into training and was not at the best level I could’ve been. Everyone was welcoming, bringing me coffee to keep me awake. And it was a foreign experience, literally and figuratively, to have even the coaches carry coffee after me,’ he joked.
But just as Van Wyk had settled into his new environment and a set routine, the Vodacom Super Rugby campaign was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic. Like South Africa, New Zealand went into a state of national lockdown, but unlike many globetrotting South Africans who rushed back home before the country’s borders were closed, the Van Wyks opted to remain in their adopted country as a precautionary measure against Covid-19.
But according to Van Wyk, there’s no lazing about and definitely no shortage of excitement and entertainment in their busy household.
‘I’ve got a small set-up where I work out. The coaches sent out a training schedule and to spice things up they’re adding weekly competitions like push-up and pull-up challenges or a 10km speed run and I have to admit that mini inter-team competition keeps us active and connected,’ he explained.
‘We have space in the backyard and Elijah has one of those electric cars and some mini golf clubs, so every day we try something new to keep him busy and he is loving it.’
*Van Wyk was speaking to SA Rugby magazine as part of a feature that will run in our June issue
Photo: Kerry Marshall/Getty Images