CAPE TOWN – Growing up, Salmaan Moerat was destined to play the oval ball game, especially with his father Nazeem and seven uncles all representing the non-racial South African Rugby Union (Saru) in a previous era.
But yet the 20-year-old Western Province lock could not help but admire the talents of a certain All Black centre.
“I have always admired Sonny Bill Williams. I think he is incredibly grounded for someone who has achieved so much in his career. I have always been impressed how grounded he is.
“My family has always been a motivating factor. I started my rugby at a club called Vineyards. There was never a lack of inspiration for me in terms of rugby. But at the same time there is that expectation that you set for yourself and you really want to reach that benchmark.”
Although Moerat is an admirer of Williams, there was no chance he was set to run among the backs.
“I remember my first game, it was under-9, for a club called Vineyards. I was a really chubby boy. I couldn’t get across the field,” he laughs.
Over the years Moerat has shed those baby kilos, transformed it into pure muscle, and now stands at a strapping 2.0m in his socks. It this physique and athleticism that seen him star in an all-conquering Paarl Boys High 1st XV during his school years, lead the WP Craven Week, SA Schools and SA U20 teams, and now pack down for the senior WP Currie Cup team after tasting Super Rugby earlier this year with three run-ons from the Stormers bench.
He has certainly taken it all in his stride thus far, but arguably comes face-to-face with his biggest challenge this Saturday at Newlands. Province host the in-form Sharks in a top-of-the-table Currie Cup clash with both teams out to protect their perfect record in the competition thus far.
Moerat knows that he will in the heat of the battle come 2pm on Saturday.
“As a forward, you really need to be aggressive and have to have a hard edge to you. I think that’s something I need to keep on improving in my game if I want to reach where I want to be,” he said.
“I have enjoyed my first Currie Cup season up to now. I am still learning each and every day. I am still young within in the team, so obviously I am just taking it step-by-step.
“I think obviously the physicality and the speed of the game is much faster than age-group rugby. As a forward, you really need to be aggressive and have to have a hard edge to you. But the senior players have made it a lot easier for me to slot in.”
What you should know:
Vineyards RFC in Paarl was one of the most successful clubs during the Saru era.
They were the SA club champions for four years running and they were Boland club champions just before unification in 1994.
The contribution made by Vineyards players to South African rugby was recognized when 12 players received their Springbok colours in recognition of their achievements.