Beating Bulls a career-highlight for Moerat
Gavin Rich - SuperSport.com
Cape Town - He got some much valued experience of training with the Springbok squad last year, but at the age of just 20 Salmaan Moerat does not feel any impatience to see his career fast-tracked to the highest level just yet.
According to SuperSport.com, the two metre tall former Paarl Boys High pupil, Western Province Craven Week captain and Junior Springbok stand-in skipper was sporting a blue eye when he spoke to the Cape media at the Western Province High Performance Institute.
"No, it wasn't picked up in the game against the Bulls (on Superhero Sunday), it was picked up because we are training really hard," said Moerat, who made his senior debut for the Stormers as a replacement and also made a start to his WP career at Currie Cup level at the age of just 19 in 2018.
Moerat says he is eager to take his opportunity to show what he can do for the Stormers when that chance comes, but he is realistic enough to know that he plays a position where the competition for places is particularly stiff. Eben Etzebeth will be returning to the Stormers team early in the Super Rugby season after recovering from injury, JD Schickerling toured with the Boks at the end of last year, and there are other players, such as another former age-group star in Ernst van Rhyn, competing for a second row place.
Let's not forget either that although he will probably play a lot at blindside flank, Pieter-Steph du Toit is also a world class second row forward.
Moerat looks destined for much bigger things and has outstanding rugby pedigree as he hails from a well-known Cape rugby family, but he gives the impression that he'd rather build his career off a sound platform than be rushed into the big time.
"As you know having so much competition is really healthy (for the team), particularly at lock. But as a youngster what is important to me is that I just keep learning. I want to absorb what I can from the experienced guys. If I get an an opportunity I want to take that opportunity, but the main thing I want to do is learn.
"This is an important stepping stone year for me, and I am hoping it will be a big year for me, but the focus right now is on the team and not me as an individual. When the other players get some rest and miss a game I must be ready to step in and give it my best. If I am entrusted with the responsibility of playing I must do it well."
Moerat adopted a somewhat paradoxical view when looking back at his participation in the Stormers' exciting 33-28 win over the Bulls at the Cape Town Stadium last Sunday.
"I think it went really well but in saying that there are still a couple of things that need to be worked on," he said.
"At the end of the day it was only a warm-up game so I am not sure how much we can take out of it. But I am sure we can take a few things. For me, although it was a just a warm-up game, it was the highlight of my career. Having 55 000 people in the stadium was fantastic and we must thank the Stormers faithful for it wouldn't have been such an experience otherwise. It is a day that I will remember for the rest of my life."
If that proves true it will be quite something, for Moerat is likely to experience many big days in his career. He hasn't quite progressed as quickly as his fellow 2016 WP Schools team-mate Damian Willemse, but then he plays a position where being exposed to top level rugby at the age of 19 is a rare occurrence.
"I know there are things I can improve on. I can work on my carries in particular, and there is also the conditioning side. I need to keep working on that. The warm-up games are about applying what you learned and worked on in the pre-season. They are also about conditioning, getting your ready for the season, and if some guys can get in an opportunity to get in a full 80 minutes of game time then that is good."
Moerat shares in the general excitement of what could be achieved by a squad that boasts much greater depth this year because of the relatively injury free build-up as well as the international experience picked up by some of the players in 2018.
"I think the win over the Bulls was important from a mental viewpoint. Any win over a Super Rugby side is important, even if it is a friendly. It is something we can take as a confidence builder for the season. But the big one is on 16 February, when we go to Loftus for our first Super Rugby game. It's all about being ready for that challenge,” said Moerat.
"For us as a team we feel there is a lot of potential in the side, a nice balance between young talent and experience. There is lots of energy in the side and we are hopeful we can do much better than last year."
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