FNB Varsity Cup
FNB UP-Tuks flyhalf Walter Visser chats about the looming semi-finals as well as his dream to replicate Impi's success as a FNB Varsity Cup winner.
It's your first FNB Varsity Cup season and already you've made a big impact. How would you describe the experience to date? As a team, we've had ups and downs throughout the season and at times we've been our worst enemies. That said, we have strived to stick to our plan and we know what we have to do. We showed that against UJ last week; we treated that game like a final. Personally, I feel that I have done well, although there is a lot of room for improvement. I didn't have my best game against Shimlas, but l will learn from every mistake and get better with each game.
When did you start playing rugby? I'm originally from Pongola, a small town in the north of KwaZulu-Natal. I went to Pongola Academie and then Hoërskool Ermelo. I started playing rugby from the moment I could hold a ball. I played with my brothers, Impi [who went on to represent the Blitzboks] and Jan. They were older, but we played together and learned a lot from one another. Hoërskool Ermelo is a very small school and the games aren't broadcast on TV or anything like that, but we gave our all to the game.
Where do you draw your inspiration from? My family. My father [Walter Snr] played a little bit of rugby, but he was more of a cricket guy and represented Tuks. My eldest brother Jan played as hooker and prop for Pukke [now the NWU Eagles] and the Leopards U21s. Of everyone, I'd say that Impi is my hero. I look up to him and ask him for a lot of advice about rugby. He also represented Tuks.
What role has Impi played in your career? He's my mentor. He told me that I must keep my feet on the ground, that I must keep grinding no matter how good I am. I have to keep looking to see where I can better my game. It's good to have a brother in the system, but he's not going to get me into teams. That's up to me.
Has he impacted other areas of your life? Impi has helped me find the right balance between my studies and my rugby. He did mechanical engineering and played rugby, so he knows how hard it is. It's especially difficult in the test week, where you write five tests in four days, and you're still training and playing games. It can cause a lot of stress, but you just need to keep your head down and keep going.
FNB UP-Tuks are traveling back to FNB UFS Shimlas for the semis. What's the plan ahead of this do-or-die match? It's going to be a tough one. The last time we played them, we didn’t pitch up for the first 30 minutes of the game. We know what to expect from them. If you allow them to build momentum, they will run at you. We're going to do our homework in the coming days and come up with a good plan. We didn't manage the game well in the previous match and the weather also played a huge role. Hopefully this time around will be different. We need to focus on ourselves. It’s the playoffs and we have a title to defend.
What will be key to your role as a flyhalf ahead of the semi-final? Shimlas play running rugby, their backs are good, especially their flyhalf [George Lourens] and the inside centre [Jooste Nel], they take good control of the game. Our kicking game will need to be accurate as we will need to play the game in the right areas. That's where we fell short the last time we faced them. When we get opportunities, we must put points on the board.
What would winning the FNB Varsity Cup mean to you personally? I've dreamed of going to Tuks to play rugby and study since I was very young. My brother Impi lifted the trophy in 2017 and I really want to lift it this year. He told me that 2017 was the best season he's had in his rugby career. It's one of my dreams to win the tournament and I'm building towards it step by step.
What are your rugby aspirations outside of the FNB Varsity Cup? I definitely want to try and make a career out of rugby. It's my dream and it's good to see that my brother is there already [with the Blitzboks]. Right now, I'm focused on giving my all in the Varsity Cup, to gain more experience, and getting my degree.
What are you studying and why? I'm studying industrial engineering, just like my father. When I was young, I often went with him to work sites and he showed me how things are done. I like the aspect of improving business systems and improving productivity.
Interview by Lehlogonolo Ditshego
Main photo: Christiaan Kotze/Varsity Cup