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Rugby | SuperSport Rugby Challenge

Earll Douwrie © Gallo Images

Bulls’ accidental hero Douwrie keeps on kicking

During the warm-up to the first game of the Vodacom Blue Bulls XV’s SuperSport Rugby Challenge campaign this season, fullback Earll Douwrie was going through the motions as the team’s back-up kicker.

So casual was he about the kicking part of his prep for the game that he only attempted four kicks at goal. Murphy’s Law being what it is, Francois Brummer, the team’s designated kicker, told Douwrie he was kicking that day.

“To be honest with you I wasn’t planning on kicking that day,” he says. “But Francois said he had a niggle in his groin and didn’t quite feel comfortable, so I suddenly found myself kicking.”

Douwrie ended up scoring 13 points, from a try, a conversion and two penalties in a 36-18 defeat. It was a performance that meant he would be entrusted with the kicking duties to the extent where he is now the leading points scorer in the competition with 72 (21 conversions, five penalties and three tries).

Talk about an accidental hero.

While the 20-year-old seems to have quietly insinuated himself into proceedings at Loftus Versfeld, his progress in the Rugby Challenge is the first step of realising a dream he had as a schoolboy who idolised Bryan Habana.

Growing up in Errol Tobias country (Caledon), Douwrie was one of those annoying kids who were good at pretty much everything they played.

Having represented the Boland at cricket, athletics, hockey, rugby and Jukskei (seriously), he cut his workload down to just being a bowling allrounder who opened the bowling in cricket, a 400m hurdler and a flyhalf who worked his way back to the last line of defence via centre.

Douwrie also replaced hockey with singing tenor in the HTS Drostdy school choir, all to “keep off the streets”. “I played 10 at school until the under-16s, then I moved to centre and fullback because at the time I was a little on the small side, but I’ve always been a kicker,” he remembered.

After making the SA Schools team in 2015 he was approached by Menlo Park to finish his schooling in Pretoria, an offer he gleefully accepted: “It was an easy decision. I wanted to play for the Blue Bulls and Boland is not at the level the Bulls are.

“But in Grade 12 I broke my collarbone in February and only played four games for them after moving there. But I managed to get a few Bulls under-19 games in as well.” An elegant, if deceptive, fullback, Douwrie is a balanced runner who is quicker and stronger than he looks, which makes him a counter attacking threat.

“I can make something out of nothing,” he explained. “Because I’m biggish (1.83m and 91kg), I can step or be physical through the gap.”

But the pre-season and season proper have been dedicated to improving other areas: “When I spoke to the coaches they said I should work hard on my kicking game so I’ve also developed a left-foot kicking game as well.

“I’ve also worked hard on my decision-making, when to attack from the back and when not to, and sticking to that decision. I’ve worked really hard on my aerial game as well.”

The latter could only be a by-product of his admiration for fullbacks who do great work in the air: “Growing up I always looked up to Bryan Habana and that’s why I wanted to go to the Bulls. Then (Australian fullback) Israel Folau came along and that guy, as well as (All Blacks) Ben Smith and Damian McKenzie, is king in the air.”

Not that Douwrie has to look too far afield for inspiration, what with new Springbok fullback Warrick Gelant also playing at Loftus: “He’s like a mentor and friend to me. He’s always helping me and telling me to back myself because he comes from a background where he wasn’t, and so do I.”


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