Marvin Orie, 25, was last Saturday named in Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus’s first squad of 2018.
Orie, who plays lock for the Lions, is set to begin his international rugby career today, against Wales in Washington DC.
Before he left for the US, Orie told Weekend Argus that he wanted to be an inspiration to youngsters in Belhar.
“I started playing for Belhar Rugby Club and now I’m a Springbok. It’s fantastic,” said Orie.
“This is a sign of hope for people from similar circumstances, especially in Belhar. This sport changed my life. I’m hoping I can inspire people in similar communities.
“It’s no secret that there are a lot of social challenges for people coming from areas like Belhar and Mitchells Plain. There’s a desperate need for positive role models in these areas. Hopefully my story can contribute to positive role models for children.”
Orie said young players at community clubs needed committed coaches who could journey with them to success.
“What changed my life was the commitment from one or two people from my club to keep the juniors going,” he said.
“They took me to the Western Province (rugby) trials. Success comes down to the commitment of people at junior club level to expose children to sport.”
Throughout his teenage years, Orie played for Western Province’s age-group teams. He was also a junior Springbok captain.
After completing high school, Orie was awarded a scholarship to study in Pretoria while playing rugby for the Bulls. By 2016, he joined the Lions in Johnnesburg, where he now lives.
Orie reflected on the perception that coloured and black rugby players were only selected to fill an obligatory quota system spearheaded by the government.
“I don’t feel undermined at all. We have fantastic players of colour,” he said. “And there has been a lot more emphasis on their performance. We try and put in our best performance so these things can be out of the equation. Our performance removes any question marks next to our names.”
Orie is also completing his degree in psychology at the University of the Witswatersrand.
His proud mom, Bridgett, works as a nurse at N1 City Hospital and his father, Sydney, is a salesman at a steel and engineering company.
Bridgett said: “We have been waiting for this moment. Marvin was appointed the junior captain for the young Springboks in 2013. I thought by 2016 he would get a call-up (for the national team), but that didn’t happen.”
Sydney said last weekend’s announcement was a “relief because of all the disappointments Marvin had”.
“There was always someone else selected ahead of him,” said Sydney.
Bridgett said her son was goal-oriented and his dream was to become a Springbok.
“Now he doesn’t belong to us anymore. He’s there for the world,” she said. “As a mother, you feel you want to cuddle your child so he doesn’t hear the criticisms and what people are saying. But he must be strong. He must be able to handle that.”
The big challenge for the family is that although Marvin now plays for the Springboks, his parents have not really been fans of the national team.
They are more inclined towards the New Zealand national rugby team, the All Blacks. Sydney laughed.
“Everybody wants to know what now. My friend told us we would need to prepare for this. Now it’s like the elephant in the room. But we’ll cross that bridge,” he said.