Young Dubai College alumnus is excelling in rugby after switch to South Africa.
Rugby union: No school daze for Gerard Pieterse
When Gerard Pieterse left Dubai for South Africa in January in a bid to further his aspirations of becoming a professional rugby player, he might not have known what he was getting himself in for.
He first learnt to play the sport in Dubai, where his family have lived for the past 11 years, and had known only the rugby played in the UAE.
Having established himself as the leading light in schoolboy rugby here, with Dubai College, he opted for a switch to Bishops, one of South Africa's leading rugby schools, at the start of this year.
As soon as he discovered his new school team had their own dedicated bio-kineticist looking after the individual strength and conditioning programmes of their pupils, he probably realised that they take this game seriously indeed.
"In terms of the standard of rugby, the game in South Africa compared to what I was used to over here is on a whole new level," said Pieterse, who is back in Dubai during his school holidays.
"There are no easy games. Every single game is about which team pitches up on the day rather than the reputation of the school.
"The league we play in in the Western Cape is outrageously competitive."
Encouragingly, the Dubai College old boy found his feet immediately.
To become a fixture in the Bishops' backline at the age of 16 is quite a feat, given the school's pedigree for the game.
Springboks such as Francois Louw and Robbie Fleck, as well as the England sevens' star Mat Turner, are alumni of the Cape Town school.
Pieterse's side still have six matches left this season.
Returning to Dubai during the school holidays has meant trying to find a way of keeping up to speed with the game, during the off-season of UAE summer.
As such, he made a beeline for Apollo Perelini's skills academy at Repton on Sunday evening, where he was put through his paces by a coach he knows well.
"Young players from Dubai fear that their skill level is not good enough," said Perelini, who has overseen Pieterse's development for the past four years. "I disagree. If coached well, they will easily be a match for anybody anywhere else in the world.
"The difference is they don't get the intensity week in, week out that they would do in their home country.
"I was rapt to see him. Gerard has been someone I've admired because his dedication has been amazing."
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