Durban - Loose forward Philip van der Walt believes his move to the Sharks will allow him to advance his career to new heights.
Van der Walt started his professional career at the Free State Cheetahs, a union he represented at Under-19, Under-21, Vodacom Cup, Currie Cup and Super Rugby levels between 2008 and 2014.
The player, who was born and raised in Adelaide in the Eastern Cape, made a notable elevation through the ranks as he was quickly touted as one of the top young loose forwards in the country, mainly due to his versatility - being able to contribute on attack, defence and at the lineouts.
After Super Rugby in 2014, he made the move to France, where he joined Biarritz. The idea was to help the former French Top 14 club gain promotion from Pro D2.
While the club failed in their pursuit during the 2014-15 season, Van der Walt still enjoyed his time on and off the field.
“My wife and I really enjoyed ourselves in France. During our free time, we had time to tour many French cities, including Paris. With France being so central, we also got to visit Italy, Spain and Morocco,” Van der Walt told MyPlayers.co.za.
“I got to learn a new language and culture, and I learned a lot by playing in a foreign rugby league. So I gained valuable life experience, on and off the field. Not many players get the chance to play in foreign leagues, but if you have the opportunity and it comes at the right stage of your career, take it. Being able to play professional rugby abroad is a great privilege.”
Van der Walt was pursuing a move to the French Top 14, but was offered a deal by the Sharks, which he saw as a new and exciting challenge.
“Like many teams in South Africa, the Sharks are going through a new transition. We still have some experienced players and leaders in the squad, but there are many young guys making the step-up, and that’s exciting,” said Van der Walt.
“The Sharks are aiming to go all the way during the Currie Cup this season, but we’re also using this competition to gel the team and build momentum going into next year’s Super Rugby competition. It’s great to be part of the journey.”
Van der Walt added that he’s enjoying life in Durban.
“Although it’s great to be back in South Africa and closer to our family, Durban is a new environment for us. We’re still settling in, but we’re excited to experience this new chapter,” said Van der Walt.
“I want to help the Sharks excel in all competitions, especially Super Rugby. And if I manage to build good form and maintain it, I hope I can get the attention of the Springbok selectors in the near future.”
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