The sudden and dazzling emergence of teenage sensation Canan Moodie in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship caught everyone by surprise. That is, everyone other than Moodie himself.
“It’s quite weird, he didn’t jump for joy,” Vodacom Bulls director of rugby Jake White said of Moodie’s response in January to being told he was going to start against the Emirates Lions.
“He’s a very humble guy. He says he had to pinch himself but it gave me confidence that he wasn’t overawed. He was happy and smiling, but not overjoyed.”
“Not overjoyed” is a mild description of White’s reaction to the news that star fullback Kurt-Lee Arendse – a 2019 Varsity Cup star – would be sidelined with a thumb injury that threatened to end his URC campaign. The Bulls coach was disappointed with the timing of Arendse’s injury news, but excited to unleash Moodie.
“There was no doubt Canan was going to get picked to play this season,” White told the URC. “I wanted to blood him.”
Moodie’s ascent has been characteristically rapid as he started the season behind a stable of more experienced fullbacks including Arendse, David Kriel and James Verity-Amm, and ended the regular season with 12 appearances and four tries, the last of them from fullback in a 38-31 win over Ospreys at Swansea Stadium on Friday as the Bulls finished fourth among the final eight playoff contenders.
“Two years ago Canan was playing school rugby at Boland Landbou in the Western Cape and he wasn’t picked for Craven Week, now he’s playing in the URC in Wales,” said White.
“I initially picked him on the wing by default because we had Kurt-Lee cooking at fullback and Cornal Hendricks, who can play centre. Often you shove a guy on the wing and he’s just making up the numbers, but Canan understands the backfield so well. I can’t believe how he defends. He almost never misses a tackle, and when he does he knocks the ball out of the runner’s hands.
“I think he really enjoys defending but he’s got everything. He can run, he’s balanced, he can pass, he can kick. He genuinely can do everything, and the longer he stays with us the better he’s going to become.”
In case it wasn’t already clear the Bulls have something special in Moodie, White underlined the point with a tale that beggars belief.
“He’s matured way beyond his age, and I can tell he comes from a good family,” said the Bulls head honcho.
“Two weeks ago, Vodacom was showing fans around Loftus Versfeld on Saturday morning and Canan was the guy leading the tour. And then, in the afternoon, the women played the curtain-raiser before the Currie Cup match against the Lions, and he was the ball boy for both those games.
“He’s 19 and he volunteered, on his off-weekend!”