Keaton Olivier

A good dose of mental strength pushed FNB Madibaz hooker Keaton Olivier to the Player that Rocks performance in last week’s FNB Varsity Shield encounter against the University of Fort Hare.

The 20-year-old Nelson Mandela University student went over for a remarkable four tries in defeating their Eastern Cape rivals 24-6 in Gqeberha last Thursday.

Olivier will now wear the pink shorts depicting his achievement in their final round-robin match against the University of Western Cape at home on Thursday.

Against Fort Hare, Olivier, who switched from flank to hooker for the match, had to show his mental resolve after a shaky start.

“As they are the reigning Varsity Shield champions, I knew we had to tick all our boxes in preparation for the game.

“When I woke up on Thursday I felt positive, but then I overthrew my first three lineouts and that was tough to deal with. But after I scored my first try, I knew that I was in the game.”

The second-year biokinetics student grew up in Komani before moving to Gqeberha where he attended primary and high school.

Thanks to his father who played and coached club rugby in Komani, his love for the sport was cultivated at a young age.

Keaton Olivier

FNB Madibaz hooker Keaton Olivier was named the Player that Rocks after scoring four tries in the FNB Varsity Shield rugby match against University of Fort Hare in Gqeberha last Thursday. Madibaz will now face the unbeaten University of Western Cape in their last round-robin match of the campaign. Photo: Varsity Sports

“My Saturdays were mainly spent watching him play and coach, normally kicking and running with the ball next to the field,” said Olivier.

“Some of my earliest memories were when my dad used to bring the tackling bags home and we would spend an hour playing in the backyard, hitting the bags, plus the odd tackle on dad when I was upset at him about something.”

He began placing greater emphasis on the sport from Grade 10 and did not look back when he entered the Madibaz ranks.

“My game has gone from strength to strength. It was obviously a huge step up from high school into a programme such as we have at Madibaz.”

He played his best rugby when he was in an environment where he had the confidence to express himself on the park.

“The big lessons I have learnt is that you get out what you put in. You have to be willing to sacrifice a lot of personal time to be successful and understand that it is 99 per cent mental and one per cent physical.”

Although they pushed their bodies to the limit each week in training, few really understood and recognised the importance of the mental side of the game, he said.

That resolve will stand the Madibaz in good stead when they tackle the unbeaten UWC.

“The biggest challenge is what is at stake when we run out on that field,” said Olivier.

“We know the game that UWC will bring to us. They are a good outfit and well-coached so it’s going to be the match of the campaign in my opinion.”

Whoever wins will earn promotion to the top-tier Varsity Cup, so there is plenty riding on the encounter.

Madibaz coach David Manuel said this was their chance to show that they could compete at elite level.

“We have worked hard to get where we are. We slipped up against CPUT (Cape Peninsula University of Technology) but maybe that was a wake-up call and an indication of how strong the competition is.”

He said the team had come together since and believed that they could deliver what was required.

“When I came to the Eastern Cape it was a big thing for me to change the mindset because there was a deep-rooted feeling that we weren’t good enough.”

They had worked to change that mindset to one where the players believed that they deserved to be on this level, and the next, said Manuel.

“Thursday is a big opportunity to solidify that and we will give it our all.”

Madibaz Sport rugby manager Mthunzi Hewu urged the supporters to get behind their team for this crucial showdown.

“They have been improving with every game, building momentum to this must-win fixture against UWC to determine who will obtain automatic promotion to the Varsity Cup,” he said.

“We therefore urge the Nelson Mandela University community to rally behind their team tomorrow at Madibaz Stadium to back our fight to gain promotion.”

The match will be televised on SuperSport. Kick-off is at 3.30pm.