Bloemfontein - Cheetahs lock Reniel Hugo has shown great pedigree on and off the field this season.
Hugo, who stands at 1.97m and weighs 110kg, made the move from Pretoria to Bloemfontein in 2015 with the hopes of earning more senior opportunities. He arrived with useful experience, having previously represented the Blue Bulls and Western Province in the Vodacom Cup, while he also featured for Maties and Tuks during the Varsity Cup.
This year proved to be the 26-year-old’s breakthrough season as he made his Super Rugby debut for the Cheetahs and started all 10 Currie Cup games during the side’s undefeated run to the prestigious domestic title.
Hugo said this season was not only an important one for him, but for the team too.
“We were delighted with our performances during the Currie Cup, which saw us go on and win the title,” Hugo told MyPlayers.
“The Super Rugby season set a great foundation for us as a team. For the first time since last year’s Currie Cup, there was more continuity among the players, giving us more time to gel.
“Super Rugby was a big learning curve for us. The results didn’t always go our way, but we managed to build momentum. We worked on a few things going into the Currie Cup, especially when it came to our defence. That made a big difference. A lot of credit must go to the coaches for all their hard work behind the scenes.”
Hugo added that he was happy with his individual contributions during the Currie Cup.
“I came to the Cheetahs for more opportunities and was very happy to make my Super Rugby debut this year. I was lucky not to suffer any serious injuries or niggles. I’ve worked during the season and I was honoured to play all 10 games for the Cheetahs during the Currie Cup,” said Hugo.
“My main goals are team-related. I want to add value and make a contribution that will help the Cheetahs on and off the field. We want to go into the next Super Rugby season with the same confidence and momentum.
“Among the locks, we have a great bunch of exciting and young players. The competition is healthy and no matter who is selected, we know every player will be able to step in and play his role for the team.”
Hugo believes there’s plenty of rising stars in the Cheetahs squad, especially with the number of players earning national honours.
“To see guys like Francois Venter, Sergeal Petersen and Uzair Cassiem earn national call-ups is amazing. They have been outstanding all year and deserve their place in the Springbok squad,” said Hugo. “It’s great to know that our performances are catching the attention of the national selectors. It gives all the Cheetahs players the motivation and encouragement to know that there’s more reward on the table if we work hard.”
Off the field, Hugo has his Honours in accounting and is now in the process of completing his articles at a local accounting firm in Bloemfontein. He’s very happy that the Cheetahs allow him to balance his professional rugby career and studies.
“My parents always stressed the importance of studies and I was lucky that I could balance both rugby and accounting during my career. The sacrifices were definitely worth it. I also had a good chat with David de Villiers from MyPlayers, who encouraged me to pursue my articles at the start of the year. As a former player, he gave me great advice,” said Hugo.
“I also receive great support from the Cheetahs, especially head coach Franco Smith. Many coaches understand the importance of studies, but I’ve never met a coach as accommodating as him. He ensures all players put in the commitment on the field and their studies.
“A guy like (prop) Ox Nche, for example, is an upcoming Springbok, but he’s able to balance his rugby and studies here at the Cheetahs. When I asked Franco about my articles at the beginning of the year, he had no issues giving me enough time to balance my commitments. He’s been around the block as a player and a coach, and knows how important it is for players to have an education and working experience, which is great.”
Hugo added that it was great to see MyPlayers offer professional rugby players in South Africa the opportunity to study through the organisation’s bursary plan.
“It’s a great initiative,” said Hugo. “It’s very important for players to study and the bursaries are a great way to encourage the guys to make the commitment to pursue an education. I know many guys at the Cheetahs who are excited to make the most of those bursary opportunities.”
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