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Vincent Tshituka © Getty Images

Tshituka now running straight for Lions



Vincent Tshituka may have raised a few eyebrows with his performance for the Emirates Lions this past weekend, but only because he "ran straight".

Tshituka, who was schooled at Northcliff High, far from the traditional stomping ground for professional rugby players, once ran sideways on the field, before infuriating his rugby coach at school so badly that he never did it again.

And it coincided with his move from wing to flanker, and the Lions upstart has simply never looked back since.

By his own admission he wasn’t the greatest winger in his time, but quickly found his style of play was more of a hindrance than anything else.

“I wasn't the greatest wing in my day. I only scored one try as a wing, and I played in the A, B and C games all in one day. I wasn't one of those safe players, I had a bad game and then got dropped, had a good game for the C team, a decent game for the B team and then I would play a bit of A team again.

"More than anything I think my greatest memory in high school was: there was a moment where my high school coach – his name was Mr Gouws – and I used to hold the ball like a bread loaf. I'd run with it and I'd always run sideways across the field. And I did that a lot in one game specifically and I remembered after one game my coach literally lost his mind.

"He pulls me aside and says: 'listen I can't do this, I can't handle it. just run straight!' And I got so emotional. I thought I'm just trying to do my best for my team, but ever since then I've never tried to run sideways on the field again.

"I tuck the ball now when I carry but he was a great coach for me."

Tshituka has come through the ranks slowly and quietly, but made a big impact on the field on Saturday. Now he wants to up his work-rate and show his worth for both the fans and his teammates.

"For me it was an absolute blessing the opportunity to run onto the field starting a Super Rugby game. I would never have guessed it would have happened so quickly, so I'm honoured and I'm blessed. I just wanted to give everything I had to make my coaches and fans proud.

"Definitely there were a couple of nerves before the game, I was very nervous. But more than anything, I felt I was in a safe community because I've played with most of the guys before. I felt I was trusted and I could just be myself on the field and even if I do make a mistake or two, it is fine, the boys around me back me. So I was excited to play the game. So ja, a bit of nerves, but more excitement than anything."

The flanker doesn' want to be remembered for his runs, but rather his defence though.

"My big focus is workrate. I want to be a force on defence, I want to be a massive force on defence as well. Those are my massive workpoints for this weekend. Just workrate and get around the park as much as I can."

"I think more than anything, I want my trademark to be my ability to defend. That is what I take most pride in rugby, I find in my defence. I hate missing tackles. That for me is my trademark. I want to be an allrounder, and I want to be able to tick all the boxes when it comes to flank or four lock. I want to tick all the boxes when it comes to doing my job on the field."

DANCE MOVES

He laments the fact that his team let in late tries to make the scoreline look respectable for the Jaguares.

"I think it was definitely soft tries. It was a moment when we knocked off, we didn't concentrate for a moment or two and it did change the scoreline. I was a bit disappointed, very much so. I was still happy that we got back into it and scored a lot of tries. I'm happy we've improved on our things and aren't concentrating so much on what they are doing.”

While Northcliff isn't known for producing Super Rugby players, Tshituka has enjoyed his rise to fame, and hasn't modelled himself on anyone in particular.

"I went to Northcliff and it is a great school, just not the best at rugby. Quite honestly I wasn't really looking up to any forwards when I started to play rugby. When I started I was playing wing and I was looking back at guys like Manu Tuilagi and Rene Ranger, I was watching their videos.

"For me quite honestly I don't really try to look at anyone, because I feel I am quite different to everybody else. I try and focus on my own game. I enjoy watching people play rugby and I enjoy the uniqueness of every guy, but I personally don't try and model myself on someone. I enjoy being me.

"I started off as a wing in Grade 8. I then moved to flank in Grade 9 and played a bit of flank and moving into first team and under-16 I played lock. I played lock for the Academy and Lions junior sides. The past two years I came back into flank and now it looks like I am a fulltime seven."

And while he is known for his fleet-footedness, much of it comes through a background in dancing that few players will openly admit.

"I used to dabble a lot in dancing. In Primary school I did ballroom dancing and then in high school I did a lot of hip hop and danced with a few friends in Grade 9 in a few competitions. Then in Grade 10 I concentrated on my rugby and I stopped. Now it is more casual, with friends and when you go out.

"When it comes to ballroom, synchronisation is key. With your partner you need to know what she is doing. The same goes for a scrum."

And is there a celebration dance planned when he scores his first try?

"Maybe one day when I manage to score a try, I'll give a bit of something," he smiles.

And when he does, it certainly is going to be a popular try in both team and fan circles.



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