DURBAN – In centuries past, a community would say “home is the hunter” when a warrior returned with a buck slung over his shoulder, while in biblical times it was a case of the Return of the Prodigal Son.
Both scenarios apply to Cameron Wright, an arrogant youngster that left Durban and the Sharks to pursue loftier dreams in France but three years later has returned to Kings Park with what he admits is an older and wiser head on his shoulders.
Wright - Sharks supporters will know - is the current starting scrumhalf for the team after initial first-choice Louis Schreuder seriously injured a hamstring in the early pre-season warm-up against the Bulls in Polokwane. Another pre-season casualty has been veteran scrumhalf Michael Claassens. And that culminated in Wright starting against Racing 92 in the warm-up in Hong Kong, plus the crucial Super Rugby opener against the Lions last week.
In both games, the Westville born-and-bred youngster delivered excellent performances.
He is still just 23 and describes his humble upbringing in the less than salubrious surrounds of New Germany as humbling, and then later he went on to Westville Senior Primary which he regards as pivotal to his growth as rugby player.
“That took me to Westville Boys High on a rugby scholarship, and then Hilton College offered me a dream bursary, and I spent three years at the elite (KZN Midlands) boarding school,” Wright says.
“During this time I dreamed of becoming a Shark and was heavily influenced by our coach, Brad Macleod-Henderson, a former Sharks No 8, and he inspired me into believing that I could wear that jersey.”
During his matic year, he was invited to join the Sharks Under-19 squad and made the daily trip to Kings Park to train in the evenings with the age group team. This early start at the Sharks saw Wright making his Currie Cup debut in his first year out of school.
Meanwhile, the coaching landscape was changing at the Sharks and former Springbok coach Jake White was at the helm in 2014 and 15.
White, a famous spotter of young talent, left the Sharks sooner than expected and he invited a few youngsters to join him at French club Montpellier.
“The agreement between John Smit and Jake was that I would always come back to the Sharks after a season or two of experience in France,” Wright says. “It was both the best and worst of times for me in that the highly structured rugby they played did not suit my natural game, which is to be an elusive, breaking, running scrumhalf,” Wright recalls.
“But it was an incredible experience playing with top Springboks in Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis, Schalk van der Merwe, plus Pat Cilliers, Pedrie Wannenburg, Craig Burden, Wiaan Liebenburg, Bees Roux and Paul Willemse,” he said.
When White’s time was up at Montpellier, so too was Wright at the end of his contract with the French club.
He could have found a gig in France but chose to return to Durban to fulfil his dream of being a Shark and a Springbok.
“My time in France was life-changing in that I grew enormously as a player, and off the field I gradually changed from being an arrogant kid that left Durban to being an adult that understood that the world did not revolve around him,” Wright said.
“When I was junior at the Sharks, it was all about what I could get out of the Sharks and King Park. It was all about me,” he admits.
“I returned as a much better rugby player and person, and now it is about what I can contribute to the Sharks,” he says. “It is not about receiving but what I can give. I am studying theology, God called me back to Durban, and my whole life philosophy has changed. For me, life is now about giving, not about looking for reward.”