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Marco van Staden: From scrumhalf to World Cup glory

Wearing the Green and Gold is a dream any South African rugby player is determined to turn into reality – and for Marco van Staden that journey was filled with loads of challenges.

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Born in Krugersdorp, Van Staden knew at a young age he was destined to play professional rugby.

He attended Bekker, an agricultural school in the Magaliesberg.  He played most of his formative years as a scrumhalf before moving to centre and eventually flank in Grade 11.

After school, the determined Van Staden swapped his plans of studying engineering at North-West University (Pukke) and joined the rugby academy at the University of Pretoria (TUKS), where his parents paid for the program – so failure was not an option.

He excelled at Varsity Cup level, helping his team win the title. His string of great performances earned him his first Bulls cap in 2018.

After a few powerful performances for the Bulls, the loose forward got a call-up for the Springboks and made his international debut on August 18, 2018, as a replacement against Argentina.

He later featured against the Wallabies in the Rugby Championship campaign.

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At the height of his career, the star headed to the Premiership where he joined Leicester Tiger for a new challenge.

However, the transfer did not go as planned, as the flank had a couple of lay-offs due to concussions caused by head knocks in matches.

He only made eight appearances for Leicester and the prospect of playing for the Boks seemed to slowly disappear.

He was released from his contract in 2022 and opted to return to the Bulls.

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“I would’ve liked to play more, and that season, they won the Premiership as well,” Van Staden revealed via the Bulls’ official YouTube channel.

“I had to leave the club, and the rest of the rugby world thought I struggled with concussion, which was not the case. I was cleared to play, but everyone was a bit sceptical, so it was difficult to get into [the team].

“I wanted to come back home after the year. My wife [Chanel] just said we have to come back home to our family, and fortunately, I signed with the Bulls again.

“We approached the Bulls to come back. They were sceptical, but after everything was proven, that everything was fine, they were happy.

“I hadn’t played rugby for nine months, but I felt perfectly fine. It’s not a knee injury where you can feel I can’t play. I trained every day at the Tigers – I wasn’t allowed to play, but I trained fully.

“So, I was really looking forward to playing again.

“I believe that everything happens for a reason. Me coming back to the Bulls, I think if it wasn’t for that, I might not have gone to the World Cup.”

The 28-year-old was touted to make the 2019 World Cup in Japan but narrowly missed out.

He finally got his time to shine when he made the 2023 Springboks World Cup squad in France.

Van Staden proved to be a vital cog in the Boks set-up, featuring as flank and hooker during the winning campaign.

“It is a massive honour and privilege just to be part of it,” Van Staden reflected on his World Cup call-up.

“For me, it was a dream come true and some days it really does not feel like reality.

“The highlight was [Springbok Director of Rugby] Rassie Erasmus reminding us we are not playing for ourselves, you playing for South Africa.

“And when we did that [Trophy] tour, we saw what it means to the people.

“[In Langa, a township in Cape Town], you couldn’t even see the road. The efforts that the people of the place put in just to see the trophy was massive.”

The forward also shed some light on his role as hooker at the Boks.

“I got into the Bulls on trial as hooker and coach Daan Human knew that,” Van Staden said, adding: “He [Human] said I should continue training throw-ins just in case of a red card or something.

“Unfortunately Malcolm Marx got injured and then the Boks management decided that I should train my throw-ins more.

“I also trained scrums as a hooker and it was so difficult.

“The first session was tough. There is a lot of pressure in the middle – you have to think of your brake foot, the hook, your bind, your shoulders and then you still have to breathe.

“The first session I forgot to breathe, but as the session got on it started to feel natural.”

Van Staden is currently at the Bulls, where he is determined to help the Pretoria franchise secure a trophy this season.

 

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