Wits captain Constant Beckerling charges forward against Tuks last Monday. Photo: Dominic Barnardt/VarsitySports
You've got to love Constant Beckerling, the say-it-like-it-is captain of the Wits Varsity Cup rugby team.

He’s a breath of fresh air when compared to the run-of-the-mill stock-standard answers rugby captains give interviewers after games; combining passion and humour, and talking with his heart, rather than his head.

After becoming somewhat famous for his after-match interviews in the Varsity Cup last year, Beckerling hit a new high last Monday when, after he’d led his side to a second win in the competition, against defending champions, Tuks, he said his team-mates played “with enormous testicles,” sparking an internet frenzy.

The video clip went viral and Beckerling was the talk of the town. Still is, but not that he’s aware of it.

“I’m not on social media. I do have Instagram, but my girlfriend and sister jointly administer my account. I must say I’m quite oblivious to all the hype. It’s a good thing as it tends to detract from my focus.

“To be honest I’m quite a reserved individual. It doesn’t seem that way but I don’t enjoy the sideshows and don’t like a big fuss being made. 

“We’ve won two games now, against two former champions, but the sooner we focus on the next game (tomorrow against Shimlas) the sooner we can start establishing ourselves as real competitors and shake that underdog tag.”

But what about those passionate speeches and off-the-cuff interviews? “Sometimes you think of what you might say to the team (before a game), but you never think about what you might say afterwards; the situation dictates what you say,” he said this week.

And then there’s the television interview; the ones he’s become famous for. “You’ve got to remember there’s a bit of an adrenaline rush after a win (like the one after the Tuks game) and I suppose when you’re in front of the mike things can go haywire, it can be dangerous.

“But I’m very passionate about my side, I love my team, we’re all so close and it’s a joy leading them.”

Beckerling comes across as a man whose biggest motivation in everyday life is to play rugby, but the third year chemical engineering student is so much more than that. In fact, rugby - while a big passion since the age of seven - comes second to his studies, something he says he’s privileged to be able to do.

“We struck a good balance at school (Helpmekaar-kollege) between rugby and studying ... you first have to study before you can play, and that’s the same in the Varsity Cup. 

“Rugby is a big part of my life, and I’d love to make a career out of it, but it should never be the sole determinant of one’s identity. 

“If you focus too much on rugby and become obsessive over it you forget about playing the game for the love of it, for the fun of it. You must however play for the right reasons, you must want to win; that’s why you play competitive sport, but you must always have fun first.”

It is one of the reasons why the 21-year-old believes getting his degree and graduating is more important than playing rugby.

“My immediate goal is to graduate successfully. If I do that then I get into a position that I don’t have to play rugby (for a living), and can play it to enjoy it.

“I’ve thought about a lot ... what if I don’t become a professional rugby player, will I still watch it, will I be bitter? 

“I came to the conclusion I won’t (be bitter) because rugby has already enabled me to study, to meet lifelong friends; it’s given me a platform to express myself, to enjoy myself, educate myself. I will be eternally grateful (for what rugby has given me so far).”

He’s become a Varsity Cup legend with his post-match interviews, but ever wondered what Wits captain Constant Beckerling is about off the field? Video: Jacques van der Westhuyzen

It is no surprise that as an openside flank Beckerling’s big hero is former Springbok tearaway Schalk Burger, who he said has instilled a “fearlessness” in his game. 

“Schalk’s fearlessness, his drive, passion, determination ... it inspired me from a young age. Schalk never left anything out there and the fact he was able to come back from a broken neck and meningitis is tear-jerkingly inspirational. He is such a warrior.”

With Varsity Cup matches shown on our TV screens on Mondays one tends to forget the players are studying full-time and in between their training sessions - on the field and in the gym - they have to make time to study. 

Beckerling is virtually in class from 8am to 5pm every day of the week except Thursday when he has afternoon classes only. 

Rugby-time is before 8am and after 6pm ... it’s a long day and it’s not easy, but he doesn’t see it that way. “It can be tough at times, but I see it as a privilege to be here, especially at Wits where studying comes first.

“You know ‘Fees must fall’ originated here in 2015 and just seeing the crisis we are in, it hits home that it’s a privilege to study. I am privileged and fortunate that I can study and play rugby. 

“One simply has to apply oneself and repay the faith and kindness. It hits home to see the sheer desperation of some people that don’t have what I have, who would love to be in my position and it’s sad that some people take it for granted.”

Away from the lecture rooms and rugby fields Beckerling loves nothing more than heading to the coast to scuba-dive. "It is absolutely liberating and recharges my soul. 

“Getting out there in what I consider to be the last wild frontier on earth, where there are no borders, nothing is caged in, and marine animals can migrate from the Arctic if they so wish. It is a global community down there and I just love it.”

Wits are only two games in to the 2018 Varsity Cup competition, but with wins against Ikeys and Tuks behind them, could this be their year? 

“We can go all the way,” said Beckerling. “The belief is there, but it’s dangerous to get ahead of oneself. We just need to stay focus on the next game."


Sunday Independent 

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