Campbell River’s Hanno Fourie, 16, was one of the youngest players chosen for the two Rugby Canada U18 squads that travelled over the holiday break to play the USA in Chula Vista, California and South Africa’s Bull Bulls Academy in Irvine, California.
“The tour was really terrific,” Fourie reported. “It was a great opportunity for players from all over Canada that play high level rugby to train and play together.”
He added that the teams were only able to have one practice together before their first match on Dec. 28, but it resulted in a 28-26 win. A few days later with multiple trainings and video sessions under their belts, they faced a second USA team, and although the Canadians lost that matchup 27-22, Fourie was selected as Man of the Match.
When asked about the style of play that the Canadians displayed, he said, “I would describe us as an extremely physical but tactically smart team. We brought physicality into our regular play, and we were very strong in the breakdowns (ed. note – a “breakdown” or ruck is the competition for the ball after the tackle). Many opposing players remarked that we tackled them so hard that they debated if they would rather stay on the ground. Our forward pack was not the biggest, but we were very quick. Our backline was very skilled and extremely quick.”
The Canadians also had a rare opportunity to face a touring side, the Blue Bulls, from Pretoria, South Africa, which was a unique highlight for Fourie who was born in South Africa and could also speak the same language as his opponents, Afrikaans.
“They were big, fast, aggressive, but most importantly, they were rugby-smart,” he says of the Blue Bulls. “I really enjoyed playing against them.”
Fourie also scored the winning try in the Canadian’s 28-24 win.
For Fourie, the high-performance training environment created by the Canadian coaches and support staff during the tour was appreciated as on his own he typically runs five kilometres in the morning and another five kilometres in the evening (often with a 20-pound weighted vest), does weighted bag drills, weight training and daily ball handling drills.
“The training was intense,” he said. “We trained two to three times a day and had lecture sessions where we reviewed game strategies and tactics. It was also very important to learn what was expected from a Canadian rugby player representing his country. Even though we were together only 10 days I felt like I was part of a family. The one thing I will cherish forever is the friendships and relationships I built with my teammates and coaches.”
Although Fourie took up rugby locally with the Campbell River Athletic Association, in November he moved his studies down to Mill Bay to attend Brentwood College, working equally hard in the classroom as on the rugby pitch as he hopes to study medicine in university upon graduation. He also has goals to play for Canada in a future World Cup and play professionally.