HILTON College and Sharks U18 scrumhalf Gareth Schreuder can never be accused of not believing in himself – it’s not arrogance, it’s a self-belief that should take him far.
Left out of the KZN Sharks U18 Craven Week team and the Sharks U18 Academy Week side, his omission disappointed many – not least the bundle of energy and rugby skill that is the irrepressible Schreuder – but fate found fortune – sadly at the expense of SA Schools 2017 scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse of Glenwood (ligament in the Maritzburg College end-second term game on Dixons) – and the Hilton number 9 took his chance.
KZN10.com contacted the HC first XV talisman and asked him about the season plus the upcoming cricket third-fourth term that holds much in store for the hugely talented wicketkeeper batsman.
Feature photo by Adriaan Beukes: Hilton College scrumhalf Gareth Schreuder launches a place-kick.
Gareth, let’s first talk rugby – and more recently, Craven Week: It was terribly sad for Jaden, who is a wonderful scrumhalf – in my book you and Jaden were the standout number 9’s in KZN schoolboy rugby this year – but after the intense disappointment of Craven and Academy omission, was it difficult to keep your spirits up, particularly as you had given everything in the successful Hilton cause on Gilfillan Field and further afield?
“Yes it was very difficult and I really felt for Jaden who is an amazing player and sportsman [Jaden is also the Glenwood first XI cricket captain]. It was hard to keep my spirits high as I did give everything for Hilton but in the end I was very glad to get the call-up. It made me happy that all my hard work had finally paid off and now I could get provincial colours for a sport that I had worked very hard in and put a lot of time and effort into.”
So what was the Craven Week experience like?
“Our first two games were a great start. We played very exciting rugby even when the conditions were extremely tough. My personal standout moment was beating the Free State Cheetahs as it was a big game, a very tough game and to beat the boys from Grey College was a huge plus.
“Dylan Pretorius was my flyhalf, a very talented player who was a joy to play with. He read the game very well, which took pressure off me to help make some crucial decisions.
“Playing in the last match of Craven Week is an honour that we as a team had achieved. It was always going to be a tough ask in that final match against Western Province and the conditions we had to play in did not help us at all. It is hard to even explain the conditions, it was so slippery underfoot it almost felt like you were playing on an ice-rink. WP were definitely the better team on the day.”
The thrill of playing at Craven Week is something that very few schoolboy rugby players get to experience. What were the biggest takeaways for you?
“The atmosphere was electrifying, the crowds, it was an absolute privilege to be able to be part of it. The players that I was playing with and against; it was really at the top level of schoolboy rugby in SA and I am so grateful that I got this amazing opportunity.”
Going back to the domestic school season, one of the highlights for me was seeing you, Gareth, and Jaden of Glenwood, producing great scrumhalf performances. Your ability to read the game, choose the right options and implement them with your repertoire of skills – your tactical kicking game, your service to your flyhalf from the base of the scrums and lineouts, your ability to break the line – what would you say were your and Hilton’s best matches against the KZN sides?
“As a team I think the two most remarkable games were holding our lines in the encounter against Kearsney away from home, which meant a lot to the boys, and beating Maritzburg College on Goldstones. To win on Goldstones is something that few Hilton College first teams have achieved and it is something that the team will never forget.
“Personally, I believe the best game that I had was the one against College on Goldstones. It was a day when everything worked, I got a few good bounces and the team had a really good game, which made me look even better.”
The double over long-time friendly (off the field yes!) foes Michaelhouse – I watched both, what a thrill those occasions are – the 200th match on Graeme Gilfillan Field at Hilton that marked the number of times Hilton and Michaelhouse firsts have met – I videoed you and the boys as you came out of the change room and prepared to take the field through the tunnel in front of an audience of thousands – and the landmark last match of celebrated World Cup final referee Craig Joubert – you were as usual revving the boys up, you gave my smartphone a wink you looked so relaxed – do you love the big occasion?
“I absolutely love the big stage! The more people the better; I always want to take the kick in the last minute to win a game in front of thousands of people, I love the pressure and I think I can be a player that plays better under pressure conditions.”
From what I have seen, your goal kicking this year has been phenomenal. You seem so confident, so collected in lining up the kick, the focus, the concentration – how do you block out the moment and its match implications and just get on with slotting the ball between the posts?
“I think I ended up with a kicking conversion rate of 87% over the season. When I line up a kick I imagine two walls from me to the posts and block everything else out.”
Has confidence always been with you? Those backyard games in your early years, what is it about the Gareth Schreuder make-up that gives the impression, whether you are larking about playing touch with mates or on the Big Stage, it’s one and the same?
“I just love playing sport; that is where I get my most enjoyment and happiness. I wish I could say the same about the classroom! But yes, I would say that confidence has always been with me. I personally believe that if you don’t back yourself then nobody else will – and that is something I have believed in since I was a young boy playing in the backyard.”
You definitely are a team man – I would guess probably the life and soul on and off the field. Do you love the team aspect, the camaraderie of team sport that at the same time gives you the freedom to express your individuality?
“It is always the team first, no matter what. I love being in the team environment. From sitting eating lunch together and talking nonsense to giving it everything on a Saturday, I absolutely love every moment being with the team.”
Moving on to your cricket now, I was beyond impressed with your wicket-keeping skills in the first school term – an economy of movement, great feet, safe-as-houses-hands – I don’t think I saw you drop a throw-in, a catch behind, a stumping, anything. Hilton College first XI have an outstanding bowling attack of depth and variety – off-spinner Michael Sclanders, leg-spinner and captain James Ritchie, the young leg-spinner Colby Dyer, the left-arm orthodox Michael Frost, the seam of Tom Dixon, the at-times extreme pace of Michael Booth and John Turner – that’s a lot to deal with, yet you seemed to handle whatever wicket-keeping challenge presented with uncommon aplomb. But especially the spinners, do you love standing up to probably the best, most varied spin attack in SA schoolboy cricket?
“Yes, the Hilton College first XI spinners make it look easy for me. They are very, very good spinners and personally I would not want to walk out and face them.”
What is it about keeping wicket that you enjoy most?
“I just love being in the action all the time, sitting under the trees and at cow corner is not something that I have an interest in, I always want to be close to the action and be able to make a difference and have that X-Factor.”
It has indeed been a pleasure to watch the X-Factor that is Gareth Schreuder the cricketer this year. Two examples that immediately spring to mind are the two catches and two stumpings plus 42 with the bat against Michaelhouse in the KZN Inland final of the Coke T20 competition, as well as the spring-heeled running between the wickets and adept ball placement in scoring 49 off 32 balls to beat Clifton College in the Coke T20 Dolphins franchise final.
When I look back at the remarkable improvement in Hilton College first XI cricket, one question worth asking is to what extent has this been due to coach Dale Benkenstein?
“Mr Benkenstein has a huge influence on all us players. He is a major role model to us, so we all look up to him for advice. He comes with great energy and experience, which he passes on to us. His knowledge has helped us be successful as a team. On a personal level, Mr Benkenstein has played a huge role in my cricket, not only with my skills but also the mental side to cricket and how I could get better and benefit myself.”
Gareth, you obviously have high hopes for KZN Inland cricket selection, and with it the opportunity to play in the Khaya Majola Week in December – is making SA Schools your big dream as your illustrious school career closes out?
“Yes, most certainly it is. Playing for SA Schools is something that I have dreamt about since the days of playing cricket down the passage with my mom shouting at us to not break the windows.”
And what of the Gareth Schreuder sporting future? Have you got plans or is it all in the possible options stage and still time to make a final decision?
“I haven’t made my final decision quite yet as I have a choice, but most of all I really hope that I can make a good choice and make sport my job.”
I have met your dad Greg at Hilton cricket and rugby matches this year. What struck me is his enthusiasm and passion for sport. Greg is a very good photographer too. What does his support mean to you?
“My dad is a huge role model to me and if it wasn’t for him I definitely wouldn’t be the sportsman I am today. The support he has given me has been remarkable and I truly am so grateful for all he has done for me.”
Finally, what is it about Hilton College, what has the school taught you and what will you take with you, as you venture beyond the playing fields of Hart-Davis Oval and Graeme Gilfillan Field, not to forget the classroom and general school life?
“Hilton has taught me many lessons but an important one is that you learn to understand people a lot better, as you are always with them at the school.”
Thanks Gareth, I hope I have covered all the bases.
KZN10.com is a massive fan of the Schreuder X-Factor. Best wishes for the third/fourth term cricket and beyond.