When it comes to kicking a rugby ball, Wihan van der Riet is eager to share the experience he gained from the San Diego Chargers, an American National Football League (NFL) team after his kicking talent was spotted and he was invited to participate in a pro camp.
Rugby players from local schools who wish to improve on their kicking skills can join the Rocketfoot Kicking Academy to be hosted at the Pietersburg Dorp Rugby Club between the two Peter Mokaba stadiums during the school holidays.
“I have learnt so much from the American footballers on kicking techniques that I would love to share it with upcoming rugby players. It might be two different sports but kicking technique and style remain something that is unique to a kicker and by learning new skills to improve can only benefit the player and the team,” Van der Riet said.
Van der Riet has loved rugby since his high school years at Capricorn High School. Just a year after school he was crowned Player of the Year at the local Police Rugby Club and scored the most points in 2009. “I also played for the University of Pretoria (Tukkies) rugby academy for a year as well as the Blue Bulls amateur team,” he said.
Van der Riet admits to having struggled to find his feet in life. “I have never been a good rugby player, but an excellent kicker. A club in England contacted me to join them but during the last game against BB Truck Noordelikes, just before I was to leave for England, I injured my chest muscles and was out of play for two years,” he said.
He acknowledged that it was impossible to get rugby out of his blood and for interest sake he and a friend discovered on the internet that the longest placed kick was 68 m. “We made a video of me kicking a rugby ball through the post at approximately 70 m and posted it on the internet. It wasn’t long before an agent from America contacted me and I had to make another video but with an American football. Soon afterwards I was invited to a NFL pro camp at the San Diego Chargers,” he said.
Having generatied the necessary funds he arrived in America in February this year with only $500 to live from for the next six months. “I quickly discovered that I was way behind with my kicking technique. I met with kickers Nick Novak (San Diego Chargers), Jason Myers (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Gilbert Alverado (Dallas Cowboys) who showed everybody the ropes, but it did not go well with me. It was difficult and especially to kick with the football gear, helmet and pads. So I did not make the cut, despite receiving good feedback,” he said.
Days later he received a call from his agent to attend a workout with the San Diego Chargers. “I was the only kicker among the players. They tested us on several aspects and I was thoroughly tested on kick-off and field kicks. I also injured my knee in an effort to impress the scouts and yet again received excellent feedback but needed that little more to earn a spot in the team,” he said.
By that time he had no money left and it became a game of survival which influenced his decision to come back to South Africa.
Clinic details are as follows: From Monday 12:00 to 14:00 for grades 3 to 5 at R250 per learner; 14:00 to 16:00 for grades 6 and 7 at R350 per learner and 16:00 to 19:00 for high school learners at R450 each. For more information contact Van der Riet on 082 773 9256. Also view his NFL and kicking experience on facebook at Get me to the NFL.