Swartbooi aims to restore Tuks’ rugby honour

Posted on November 10, 2023

"Winning rugby" is Dewey Swartbooi's honest answer when asked what kind of rugby he wants Tuks to play next year.

The former Bulls rugby player is TuksRugby's new head coach.

Swartbooi admits that saying he wants the team to win is a cliche. But then, he justifies what he said by quoting one of South Africa's coaching legends, Heyneke Meyer.

"Heyneke used to say he is coaching players to play winning rugby because playing attractive rugby is no guarantee to win trophies."

A close shot of TuksRugby new head coach Dewey Swartbooi in a red shirt, black track pants and a black hat in a training session. Partly in the shot are two players

Getting to know and understand your players is the foundation of success, says TuksRugby head coach Dewey Swartbooi. (Image: Reg Caldecott)

Swartbooi is under no illusion of the enormity of the task that awaits him and his players from next year on. They have got to restore Tuks' rugby honour. This year's Varsity Cup campaign was a disaster. As defending champions, Tuks lost all seven games. It is hard to remember when last, if ever, Tuks lost seven games on the trot. It led to Tuks being relegated to the Varsity Shield Tournament.

According to Swartbooi, many might think that it is going to be a mere formality for Tuks to win the Shield Trophy.

Making a difference in the lives of young people

"Experience has taught me to never take anything for granted. I know now that we must be at our best to win. Every team in the Shield competition is going to come for us. For them, it is about getting the bragging rights to beating Tuks. Despite what happened, Tuks is still considered one of the legendary teams of South African rugby."

As a coach, Swartbooi firmly believes that getting to know and understand your players is the foundation of success.

"As said, winning is important, but the most rewarding thing about being a coach to me is knowing that I can make a difference in the lives of young people. It is important that players not only succeed on the field, they must excel in everything they do. Rugby is a tool to help players think like winners."

In 2017, Swartbooi coached Tuks Young Guns to victory.

Swartbooi's passion for rugby started in the dusty streets of Sutherland. At the age of four, he went along with his dad to watch club rugby. A memory that has remained is how sometimes the spectators switched on the headlights of their cars to allow for enough light so the players could finish the game.

Then there are also the memories of listening on Saturday afternoons to the rugby games broadcasted on the radio.

2002 Junior World Cup a highlight

"The commentators in those days were brilliant. The way they described the action made you feel as if you were next to the field watching the game."

It was in Worcester, playing as a centre, that Swartbooi's heroics started to get noticed. He got to play for the Boland Cravenweek team, the South African Schools (under-18).

A definite highlight was being part of the South African under-21 team that won the inaugural Junior World Cup in 2002. The team was coached by Jake White. In the backline, Swartbooi partnered with the likes of Jean de Villiers, Fourie du Preez, Clyde Rathbone and Ricky Januarie. A year later, he debuted for the Bulls playing SuperRugby.

Playing golf to forget about rugby and to relax is something Swartbooi learned in Pretoria. He admits not to being one of the best.

"I playoff an 18 handicap, which is genuinely an 18 handicap. When I play, I am there to lift the spirits of the other players."

- Author Wilhelm de Swardt

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