Blitzboks player – and new UP mechanical engineering graduate – sets sights on Tokyo Olympics

Posted on May 03, 2019

With his mechanical engineering studies done and dusted, former UP-Tuks rugby player Impi Visser has his sights firmly set on making sure the Springbok Sevens team qualifies for next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Over the past few weeks, Visser enjoyed plenty of thrills and spills as he helped the team, also known as the Blitzboks, win tournaments in Vancouver and Singapore – but it will never just be about rugby for him. Yesterday he graduated from the University of Pretoria with a degree in mechanical engineering.

Visser considers this to be as significant as any try he could score for the Blitzboks or any tournament victory he may be a part of, as he realises that a rugby career can last only so long.

“Being a student and playing rugby was not always easy,” he said. “At times it became a juggling act to find time to do both. I am grateful for the support from my coaches and lecturers.”

When he got the call-up to play National Sevens Rugby, Visser faced a dilemma: it meant he had to move to Stellenbosch.

“I truly appreciate the way the dean of UP’s Mechanical Engineering Department was prepared to go the extra mile to help me sort things out.”

For now, Visser is only planning to play rugby.

“I’ll probably keep on playing rugby for as long as my body holds up or the day my passion for the game dies,” said Visser, who played for the UP-Tuks team that won the Varsity Cup Tournament in 2017.

It’s perhaps fair to assume that the name “Impi” is a nickname and has something to do with Visser being a warrior on the field – which he is – though his name has nothing to do with his on-field heroics, and is in fact his real name. It is a matter of tradition, and goes back to the Anglo-Boer War, when the eldest sons on his mother’s side of the family, the Brechers, were given that name.

Visser made his debut for the Blitzboks in 2018 in Dubai and has since gone on to represent the team in another seven tournaments.

With the Paris and London tournaments remaining, he is taking nothing for granted.

“Quite a few of our more experienced players have recovered from injuries, so it would be foolish to rest on one's laurels.”

The Blitzboks are fourth on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series standings: the USA leads with 145 points; Fiji is second, with 142 points; and New Zealand is on 130 points. South Africa has 121 points – but Visser is confident the team can surpass the Kiwis.

“It’s not going to be easy, but I think our performance in the past few tournaments showed that we are starting to gel as a team. The beginning of the year was difficult as we were sort of in a rebuilding phase, battling to find which combinations worked best.

“If we manage to overtake New Zealand, it would be great as only the four best teams automatically qualify for next year’s Games.”

Le Roux Hamman, 2016 Olympian and former South African 400m hurdles champion, and Tobie Snyman, who won a bronze medal for judo during the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, also graduated as mechanical engineers yesterday.

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