FNB UP-Tuks No 8 Orateng Koikanyang on how he started playing rugby, his season so far, and Monday night’s massive FNB Varsity Cup final at the Danie Craven Stadium.
When did your love for rugby begin?
I was born in Cape Town and moved to Pretoria at a very young age. I attended Hatfield Christian School in Pretoria, which didn’t offer rugby. I only got exposed to the game in Grade 6 when I moved to Waterkloof House Preparatory School. They told me to play lock. I knew nothing about the sport and the position, so I didn’t think I could make anything out of it. I only got serious about rugby in high school. I went to St Alban's College and while it’s not a traditional rugby school, it has produced some big names like [Bok hooker] Bongi Mbonambi. That inspired me. I got picked for the Bulls’ U16 Grant Khomo team in 2015, the U18 Academy Week in 2016, and the U18 Craven Week in my matric year in 2017, which landed me a Bulls contract.
You’ve started nine out of 10 matches for FNB UP-Tuks this season and came off the bench in the other one. Are you pleased with your personal performance?
I put in a lot of work and trained hard during the off-season so I could make this a memorable season and give as much as I could to the team. I think I’ve had a decent season but the final is the game that matters. That’s when you really need to show up.
Is this your last season of FNB Varsity Cup?
The Varsity Cup has been really good for me and helped me to develop as a player. But I do want to see if I can ply my trade in the Currie Cup and hopefully I will become a Springbok one day.
How are FNB UP-Tuks approaching Monday night’s FNB Varsity Cup final?
We have experienced guys in the team. I think we are a strong finals team, so we just need to stay calm and give our all.
You did not play in last year’s final, so what does this year's final mean to you?
I remember thinking about it before the semi-final against Shimlas … I got goosebumps. I want my potentially last Varsity Cup season to end with a bang. As a team there are going to be a lot of emotions because of how badly we want to win it. It would have been great to play the final at home but this gives us a chance to beat the Maroon Machine on their own turf and silence their crowd.
How do FNB-UP Tuks prepare for games?
Credit has to go to our coaches, every game is analysed thoroughly. They give us scenarios involving five- and seven-point tries and tell us what to do in different situations during a game. In the semi-final against Shimlas, we just needed to win the game, the margin of victory didn’t matter. So we kicked from inside our own half so they wouldn't get the chance to win a turnover.
And in terms of mental preparation and conditioning?
Our mental coach John-Laffnie de Jager helps us to set the tone, focus on the game and think straight. Our conditioning coach Ignatius Loubser has prepared us well since last season when we had to play a lot of games in one week. Big credit to our head coach Nico Luus for steering us through every process in all aspects of the game.
Interview by Lehlogonolo Ditshego
Photos: Nasief Manie/Luigi Bennett/Varsity Cup