FNB NWU’s Piater epitomises 'never say die' attitude

FNB Varsity Cup

FNB NWU’s Morné Piater (23) may be new to the FNB Varsity Cup scene but the value the flanker has already added to the team is second to none.

Morné Piater's rugby career took flight at Hoërskool Bastion in Johannesburg after his coaches invested a lot of time and effort into him in grade nine, which helped him progress to the Under-15A team. In grade eleven he made the school's first team playing at inside centre, but in matric he decided to make the transition from inside centre to blindside flank because he enjoyed going into contact and the intensity of the forward pack.

In the same year he made a trip to Potchefstroom with the Lions and caught the eye of NWU's first team rugby coach Burger van der Westhuizen. Piater, who never considered studying, but rather a career as a mechanic or boiler maker, joined NWU as a first year in 2015 thanks to Van der Westhuizen.

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The man nicknamed ‘Boeta’ has made the most of the opportunity to study, having already completed his Diploma in Sport Science and a degree in Human Movement Science and Psychology, and is currently registered for a Postgraduate Diploma in Project Management at the NWU Business School. While studying Piater played for the university’s first and second team for three years (and a stint with FNB NWU Young Guns squad in 2016), but felt that he was missing out on opportunities because he lacked ball-handling skills – despite having speed and explosiveness.

In 2019, NWU’s first team forwards coach Johan Boshoff greatly influenced a change in mindset for Piater when he told him to decide whether he wants to make it in life or not and, if not, the opportunity will go to someone else. This struck a nerve, and thereafter he started every game in the Pirates Grand Challenge, winning Man of the Match and making the most tackles on several occasions.

When he was named in the preliminary FNB Varsity Cup squad last year, Piater set himself the goal of starting in the opening game against FNB UP-Tuks. Knowing he had to fill the shoes of Gideon van der Merwe, he worked as hard as he could during pre-season. Now, having achieved this goal, he says the highlight from his debut was standing next to his close friend Danny du Plooy and singing the national anthem together, while making eye contact with another close friend on the bench, Marco Donges. Piater recalls that this was incredibly emotional for him, but has motivated him to put in the work every week so that he doesn't lose his place in the starting line-up.

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“FNB Varsity Cup makes me feel like a professional rugby player. I want to sing the national anthem every week, and to be able to smile back at my girlfriend sitting in the stands,” Piater reveals to varsitycup.co.za.

Despite being in his first year of the FNB Varsity Cup setup, Piater brings a new dimension of experience and leadership to the team.

“We need to set an example to the younger guys. I might not be here next year so I want the younger guys to see the work I put in now and look up to us seniors. If we make big hits it will make the younger guys work harder too, which creates healthy competition. You can't let a younger guy push you out of the team, you have to work hard,” Piater says emphatically.

Piater's journey to the FNB Varsity Cup stage has been a long wait but worth every second. His advice to any players who feel that they are struggling is to never give up, even if you lack something.

He concludes, “Go the extra mile, wake up early every morning, train harder and go ask the coaches what you can improve on to get into the team. You can never give up.”