Player sells his car to achieve BlitzBok dream
SPOTLIGHT: At the start of the year, as Ricardo Duarttee walked back to his car after a meeting Philip Snyman – then still the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport Sevens Academy coach – his mind was racing.
Duarttee had just applied – and was accepted – to restart his rugby career, but there were severe financial implications to this decision. Enrolment was one thing, finding the finances to complete the programme was another. Then he unlocked his car and the solution for his problem jumped at him.
“I was walking back to my car and thinking, how on earth will I get the money needed to first pay the deposit and then the remainder of the fees to enrol,” the 24-year-old scrumhalf and newly-selected Springbok Sevens sweeper recalled.
“I was desperate to get back into rugby, especially Sevens, and really wanted to give it another shot. Then, as I got into my car, it struck me. I could sell my car and that way, pay what I needed to.”
The rest as they say, is history. Duarttee enrolled at the beginning of the season and now, 10 months later, finds himself in Dubai, where the BlitzBoks arrived on Monday to contest the second leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series this weekend.
“It is such a great feeling. It really feels like a dream come true. That decision, to invest in myself and not my car, proved to be one of the best I have ever made,” Duarttee said.
Originally, it was plain sailing in rugby for Duarttee, a school boy star for Stellenberg High School, where he played, amongst others, with Angelo Davids, himself a BlitzBok of note.
Duarttee was amongst the best scrumhalves in his age group and was contracted out of school by the Lions in 2017, where he played for their Under-19 provincial team and for the University of Johannesburg in the Varsity Cup Sevens. He returned to Cape Town the next year and joined Durbell Rugby Club, from where he was picked for the Western Province Under-21 team.
“I was a fringe player at best though and decided to move to Boland in order to play senior provincial rugby. That went well, but in 2020 COVID struck,” he said.
Duarttee never imagined a life without rugby and when his fledgling career stalled, he started to spend a lot of time in the gym and was introduced to mixed martial arts (MMA) in order to keep in shape. That triggered the competitive edge in Duarttee, a feisty competitor in any sport.
“I was waiting for my first fight and trained hard to be ready for when the call came,” said Duarttee.
“In that time, I bumped into my former Sevens coach, Patrick Ross-Allan, and told him that I will probably quit rugby in order to do MMA. He then asked me to reconsider and forwarded me the link to apply to the SAS Academy.
“The love for rugby was still there and sitting in the car, realising that I can’t give up and to give it one more go, made me even more determined to give it one final try.”
And ‘tries’ he did. Snyman was impressed and suggested his promotion to the SA Sevens ‘A’ team to Sandile Ngcobo, now the BlitzBok coach who was then still heading up the ‘A’ squad programme.
A few months later, Ngcobo and Snyman were appointed to take over the coaching of the BlitzBoks, and it was not long before Duarttee was training full-time with the national squad. And last week, with regular sweepers Selvyn Davids and Ronald Brown ruled out due to injury, Duarttee was roped in for Dubai.
“I was hoping to be included, but to be honest, only believed it when the coaches told me so,” he said with a broad smile.
“And I have not stopped smiling since. When I do get the opportunity to run onto the field in Dubai, the smile will still be there. This means so, so much.”