Cape Town - Ex-Springbok Robbie Kempson has been appointed as coach of the Madibaz Young Guns for the 2015 Varsity Cup competition and will guide the NMMU junior team in the build-up to their first game against Pukke on March 2.
The former Springbok prop debuted for the national team in 1998 and retired from professional rugby in 2003 after playing 37 Tests for South Africa.
Following his retirement from professional rugby Kempson began coaching in 2005 and is currently academy and high performance manager of the SARU Kings Academy.
Kempson’s association with the academy allowed him to become involved with NMMU rugby structures, specifically the Young Guns team, which is restricted to players under the age of 20.
“There is a strong relationship that has been built between the SARU Kings Academy and NMMU, which creates a conduit for the players to be educated at the same time as pursuing their dream of playing professional rugby,” he said.
“The EP Kings and NMMU have worked hard to harness the talent within the province from the first-year students all the way through to the EP Currie Cup main side.”
Having coached at various levels, Kempson said the most rewarding part of guiding the Young Guns side was seeing how the young talent took on their rugby challenges and developed their skills and careers.
“Experiencing how they react to the highs and the lows and how they manage their very different personalities in a team environment is a high point for me.”
Kempson said that, in terms of the Varsity Cup tournament as a whole, the value of the Young Guns competition was highly underestimated.
“It is the first opportunity for these young men to compare their talents with that of their peers around the country.”
According to Kempson, this year’s Madibaz Young Guns team is a very talented group of young men and a strong leadership group.
“It will be a relatively young Under-19 team as many of our top players have made it into the Varsity Cup squad.”
Kempson said it drives him to see the work ethic of the players and how they enjoyed and grew within the team environment.
His objectives for the Young Guns reflect the essence of the tournament, which is to enjoy the game at a competitive level while promoting sound team ethics.
“A few wins under the belt wouldn’t hurt either.”
In terms of standout players, Kempson said it was difficult to tell this early in the season but pointed to Jeremy Ward and former SA schools forward Junior Pokomela as top pre-season performers.
“We have a very talented group of players that once they get game time hopefully will have their own standout performances.”
Kempson and the team have been hard at work preparing strategies for this year’s tournament.
“It’s always been about playing rugby, keeping the game lively and testing themselves daily against their peers, be it in the NMMU environment or playing against Tukkies,” he said.
The team have been training five times a week and each player has his own gym obligations over and above that.
“We will be competitive, although we do have a tough group with some of the top teams in the competition.”
Kempson said Maties and defending champions Tuks would be the Madibaz Young Guns team’s biggest competition in the tournament.
The Young Guns final squad announcement will be made early next month.