JP du Plessis was the first South African junior rugby player to be recruited by a National Rugby League team when he signed up with the Sydney Roosters earlier this year.
At the time he was approached by Roosters' recruitment manager Peter O'Sullivan JP was just 18 years, completing his schooling at Paul Roos Gymnasium in Stellenbosch, and spending much time in the boarding school some 1,200km from home. In his own words, he was “still mommy's boy”. But keen for a change and to try out something different, JP figured that leaving rugby for footy would only mature and improve him.
Now living in Randwick, Sydney, it's about a five minute drive to the Sydney Football Stadium where JP trains. It is hardwork – he spends a lot of time training, and has a long season during which the team plays up to 26 games.
JP says that there have been many challenges to face as part of moving to Australia. “To adapt to the new city is one of them. It is so big and always busy. Another one is to understand the Australian accent. Australians talk really fast and sometimes I still struggle to understand my friends! And then obviously the biggest one is to adapt to the new sport, rugby league…it's so different to union!
JP also misses his family back in South Africa. “I see them about once every six months. It's pretty tough for me as I'm really close to them.” He adds that he especially misses his little brother Muller. “He's only 11 years old, but he is my role model. He came first in South Africa in long jump, second in 80m sprint and he's the best rugby player I have ever seen. Yet, he's so humble.”
JP also misses the Afrikaans language. “Sometimes I hear someone talk Afrikaans in Sydney and I almost want to hug the person because it feels like I know them well!
But JP is enjoying the beautiful beaches of Sydney, especially Bondi Beach. “Australia really has the best beaches in the world. In the summer it's always packed and the waves are always massive. And there are some really good snorkeling spots.”
Amongst other great things to do in Sydney, he says, are to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge and to take the ferry from the bridge to the zoo – it's really awesome.”
And his advice to new arrivals: “Always take a taxi or bus. Parking is impossible to find, and if you finally do find a spot, you'll need lots of money to pay for it!”
JP doesn't regard himself as successful. “I'm only 19, he says. “But I guess it is being different from the rest, and so the effort that I put in should be way more than the rest. I believe that perfect training makes perfect, so how and how much you train leads to your brilliance and self confidence.”
In the next few years JP hopes that he can be the best that he can be. “And to do it in such a way that I never stop enjoying it because in the end enjoying it is what it's all about.”
Full Name: JP du Plessis
Birth Date: April 29, 1991
Birth City: Kroonstad, Free State
Secondary School: Paul Roos Gymnasium, Stellenbosch
South African food: Biltong
Australian food: Their Thai food. It's awesome!
Food to cook on a BBQ or braai: Boerewors with garlic bread. Ah, I'm craving it right now!
Music: I'm easy…Akon, David Guetta, B.o.B and Chiddy Bang are all pretty good. Heavy metal music is a ‘no go' though.
Holiday destination in Australia: The Great Barrier Reef
Holiday destination in Southern Africa: Mossel Bay, Diaz Beach. The best place ever.
Brian Skosana was recruited by the Sydney Roosters last year when he played rugby for the South African Schools rugby side during his matric year. Brian played flank as a junior, but moved to centre
or his school's first rugby team in 2008. In April 2009 he attended the International Rugby Academy of New Zealand, as part of the Eastern Cape team to attend Craven Week. He was selected for the South African Schools team to play against Italy and English and subsequently selected for the South African High Performance team to play against France and Namibia. (Incidentally, Brian also played first team squash during his matric year!)
Approached by Peter O'Sullivan from the Roosters, Brian says that at the age of only 18, the offer seemed to provide a good opportunity to further his education and experience a change of culture having grown up in South Africa.
Brian's now living with a family of five in Surry Hills, New South Wales, and appreciates how the family has taken him in as one of their own. He's currently playing A-grade footy with the goal of advancing to the Toyota Cup in the year to come.
Having experienced some of the same difficulties as any newcomer, Brian says that he's had some challenges in getting used to the Australian culture and weather. “Also getting out and meeting people has been rather tough, but that is to be expected when moving to a new country.”
But amongst the things that have grown on him are Sydney's marvellous beaches and astonishing views. In addition, the people have been welcoming and understanding, he says.
Brian misses the diverse culture of South Africa, as well as the language, and, of course, the family and friends he's had through school and the journeys of his life.
Asked to give advice to other new arrivals to Australia, Brian suggests being open to learning and experiencing new things. “Come with a positive attitude and embrace the Australian humour and culture. And pack light as there is a lot that Australia has for you to take back to South Africa with you!”
Brian hopes to start playing in the Toyota Cup in next year's competition and to move on from there. But it's not only about sport, he also hopes that the next few years will see him complete a degree in property and having a full understanding of the real estate industry.
Full Name: Mthangala Brian Skosana Jr
Birth Date: December 5, 1991
Birth City: Johannesburg
Secondary School: St Andrews College, Grahamstown
South African food: My mother's cooking
Australian food: Wagyu steak
Food to cook on a BBQ or braai: Boerewors and steak
Music: Hip hop and dub-step
Holiday destination in Australia: Sydney
Holiday destination in Southern Africa: Cape Town