VIDEO: 'Starstruck' Moodie still getting goose bumps
Canan Moodie’s rise from relative obscurity to a superstar on the global stage has been nothing short of meteoric.
What made his surge even more glitzy was that his final year of school was marred by the COVID pandemic – preventing him from getting the experience of appearing at the annual Craven Week interprovincial tournament.
However, Moodie, who celebrated his Springbok debut last year with a superb try against Australia in Sydney while still Under-20, was named the Young Player of the Year this week.
He beat off the challenges of Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, Jaden Hendrikse, Evan Roos and Henco van Wyk.
Moodie, by his own admission, was ‘starstruck’ when he first set foot in the Springbok camp.
However, he is now a celebrity in his own right.
The 20-year-old described it as a “very good call” the decision by the Bulls to ‘take a chance’ on him as a fresh-faced teenager just out of school.
Speaking about his Test debut against Australia in Sydney in September last year – scoring a scintillating try on debut in the 24-8 demolition of the Wallabies – Moodie said he was “getting goose bumps again” just thinking about it.
(Article continues below the Moodie interview …)
“It was a very special and emotional week,” the now 20-year-old said.
He was informed by Bok coach Jacques Nienaber on the Sunday that he would be starting, but could not share his obvious elation with anybody – including his family – until the team was formally announced on the Tuesday.
“I had a job to do,” he said, adding that he relied on the teammates around him to give him ‘pep talks’ in the build-up and answer any of the questions he fired off in their direction.
“Once I touched the ball for the first time I felt at home, with the nerves disappearing.
“It was special to top it off with a try.
“To this day, when I walk in the streets at home [Paarl] people remind me of it.
“It is a memory I will forever keep close to my heart.”
Moodie told @rugby365com that he is well aware that 2023 will be a much bigger challenge, as teams would have analysed him.
“I will have to be sharper in terms of my game,” he said, adding: “On the high ball the [opposition’s] escorts will pay more attention to protecting the catchers.
“On attack, I can’t be sitting on the outside only, but need to get more involved, working and always being an option around the ball.”
Speaking about his road from missing out on provincial selection at school to scoring a try on his Bok debut and winning the Young Player of the Year award, Moodie paid credit to his high school coach, Oloff Bergh – the Boland Landbou (Agricultural High) mentor – who put him in touch with Nollis Marais at the Bulls.
However, the single biggest ‘influencer’ on his career was his elder brother, Keanu.
Keano Moodie, an accomplished athlete in his own right and a champion longjumper, helped his teenage brother always work harder.
“He was the one who supported me when times were tough,” Canan said of his elder brother, who has graduated from the University of Stellenbosch.
“We always had the dream of being successful, but a lot of sacrifices had to be made. At the end of the day, it all worked out.”
The younger Moodie openly admitted to being ‘starstruck’ when he first set foot in the Springbok set-up at a training camp in Johannesburg last year.
“I was still at school when they [the Boks] won the World Cup [in 2019 in Japan],” Moodie said.
“I was a massive fan [of the Springbok team] and supported [them] with all my heart.
“Then being able to rub shoulders with the guys and seeing what they do every day, doing drills with them and eventually playing on the same team left me starstruck.
“However, you are there to do a job and you have to focus on that.”
He said the senior players – like Player of the Year Eben Etzebeth, Duane Vermeulen and captain Siyamthanda Kolisi – took him under their wings and were always happy to answer his questions and guide him through the process and systems of the Bok set-up.
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Full name: Canan Moodie
Position: Outside back
Date of birth: 5 November 2002 (age 20)
Place of birth: Paarl, South Africa
Height: 1.92 m
Weight: 94 kg
School: Boland Landbou (Agricultural High)
Teams represented: Springboks, Bulls
First Test: 3 September 2022 (age 19) – right wing against Australia at the Sydney Football Stadium
Last Test: 26 November 2022 (age 20) – replacement against England at Twickenham, London