From Grey to Currie Cup

Tue, 29 Jul 2014 16:31
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A schoolboy teenager is set to play in the 2014 Currie Cup - Henry Immelman, the Grey College fullback.

A schoolboy teenager is set to play in the 2014 Currie Cup - Henry Immelman, the Grey College fullback.

Thomas du Toit, who was at Paarl Boys' High last year, has proved that a teenager can stand firm among the tough, gnarled men of the front row.

Frans Steyn was 19 when he was chosen for the Sharks and then for South Africa. That was 2007, the year he turned 20. Johan Goosen was 18 when first he played for the Cheetahs in 2011, the year he turned 19.

Now Henry Immelman has been chosen in the Free State squad to play in the Currie Cup. He turned 19 in May.  Unlike Steyn and Goosen he is still at school - in matric at Grey College, the school that Steyn and Goosen attended.  Like the other two he played for Free State at Craven Week - in 2013. Goosen made SA schools; Steyn and Immelman did not.  Steyn and Goosen were born east of Bloemfontein - in Aliwal North and Burgersdorp. Immelman was born, on 26 May 1995, in Upington in the west.

He is an exciting player, running brilliantly from fullback or on the wing, and was contracted at the end of last year to play for Free State till the end of 2016.

He has missed some rugby this year after fracturing a cheekbone and tearing a lip against Affies in Pretoria in May. But on Saturday he played again - in Grey's big win over Glenwood in Durban.

Rory Duncan, the Free State's Currie Cup coach, announced last week his squad of 44 players, which includes eight Springboks and Immelman.

The Free State Currie Cup Squad

Rudolph Botha, Tienie Burger, Neil Claassen, Peet Coetzee, Jean Cook, Luan de Bruin, Lood de Jager, Jacques du Toit, Vincent Jobo, Lappies Labuschagne, Hercu Liebenberg, Oupa Mohoje, Freddie Ngoza, Trevor Nyakane, Caylib Oosthuizen, Coenie Oosthuizen, Boom Prinsloo, Bees Roux, Kevin Stevens, Adriaan Strauss, Francois Uys, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Henco Venter, Waltie Vermeulen, Carl Wegner.

Backs: Rayno Benjamin, Clayton Blommetjies, Renier Botha, AJ Coertzen, JP du Plessis, Willie du Plessis, Joubert Engelbrecht, Cornal Hendricks, Henry Immelman, Cameron Jacobs, Tertius Kruger, Nico Lee, Willie le Roux, Marco Mason, Sarel Pretorius, Raymond Rhule, Francois Venter, Shaun Venter, Elgar Watts.

In earlier times, when the game was less violent or these was just less concern, players were chosen on ability without regard to age, there were players younger than there are now.

Two Scottish schoolboys - Charles Reid and Ninian Finlay - were 17 years and 36 days old when they played for Scotland, Finlay in 1875, Reid in 1881. They were at Edinburgh Academy at the time. The youngest to play for South Africa was almost certainly a Bishops boy - Jack Hartley who may well have been 17 years and 18 days when he played for South Africa in 1891. In fact his tombstone gives his date of birth as 18 August 1876. If that were correct he would have been 15 years and 18 days old. In 1892 he played in the first Currie Cup tournament.

Only in ancient times? James O'Connor played for Australia at 18 in 2008, as did Tom Prydie of Wales in 2010.

The last one to do what Henry Immelman is doing was Jaque Fourie who was a 19-year-old at Monument when he was chosen to play fullback for the Golden Lions in 2002. He was 20 when he played his first Test - at the Rugby World Cup in 2003.

There are big boots for Henry Immelman to fill!