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Hilton’s shooting star

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Hilton Lobberts, Springbok of 2006, is back where he started: with the struggling Boland team after being discarded by WP. So what went wrong?

Simnikiwe Xabanisa, The Times

You get guys that go on to a higher level and just excel, like Hilton. I wouldn’t say I’m surprised by his selection, but he’s proved to be even better than I thought.”

That was former Blue Bulls coach Heyneke Meyer speaking about Hilton Lobberts three years ago. The flanker, then 20, had just been picked for Jake White’s end- of-the-year tour squad.

Sure, there was an element of making up the numbers in his selection for the Springboks, but Lobberts was every bit the coming man, comparable to his contemporaries, Pierre Spies and Chiliboy Ralepelle, in ability.

The thing to note about Meyer’s statement was the fulsomeness of the praise from a man who is grudging with his compliments.

So the hard-running, hard-tackling Lobberts had to have something going for him.

However, last week, he signed for Boland, not having completed a year of the Western Province deal he was on after leaving the Bulls.

It’s a move that takes him, literally and figuratively, back to where he came from. Unfortunately, in rugby terms, it also means he is nowhere.

With respect to Boland and their ambitions, they are hardly the provincial union to propel him back to the heights of 2006.

More to the point, the move might signal the beginning of the end of his career.

Lobberts’s speedy demise is as much his fault as that of his previous teams. What a lot of rugby fans don’t know about the 2005 SA under-19 and under-21 world championship winner is that he suffers from dyslexia.

The problem is such that, when flying out to games, he needs a team-mate with him at the airport, because he struggles to make sense of the flight announcements board.

He also struggles with team calls in matches, to the point that a team-mate almost has to move him physically for him to know where he’s supposed to be.

It’s a situation that the Bulls, with a lot of help from Ralepelle, seemed to manage very well, which doesn’t seem to have been the case at Western Province.

Lobberts was converted into a grinding lock by Province, which is fair enough in terms of his ability to do damage in the tight.

But the line-out is probably where most calls are made in the game, and Lobberts, with his problem, could only be confused.

It’s a situation that shows that, for all its mushrooming academies, rugby still struggles to deal with players who have requirements other than those of the general herd.

But Lobberts must take the blame for letting himself go physically. Formerly a fine physical specimen, who drew comparisons with Jerry Collins when at the Bulls, he was sporting a boep when he played for the Stormers in the Super 14.

How the Stormers allowed him onto the field in that shape beggars belief, but, as one who trades on his body, Lobberts has to take responsibility for his condition.

Is it too much to hope that someone will act before yet another talent is squandered?

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18 COMMENTS

  1. I really enjoy this guys articles. Easy reading, balanced viewpoints. Albeit he doesn’t seemed to get involved in the controversial stuff in any great depth.

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  2. I think this more than anything illustrates what a great man-manager Heyneke was to get the best out of Hilton, and how that was lacking when Heyneke left and he moved away…

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  3. I still remember watching Lobberts play for th Boks and commenting on how he was really mobile and hard, but seemed a bit lost when he got to the rucks. He arrived the quickly but was ineffectual when hitting them.

    Not sure that can be accredited to dyslexia though.

    Who was his coach at U19 & 21’s? JW, no?

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  4. Simnikiwe Xabanisa is a very good people and good journalist. I met him in 2001 in Genoa when for the last time the Bokke played on the Italian soil. I hope to meet him in Udine and share a drink together again (he only drank orange and lemon juices…not beers…pity…). I am in touch also with JJ Harmse and I shall meet him in Udine

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  5. WP seem to have some consistency in selecting players with boeps, a certain January name comes to mind!

    ………15 etes voor, en 10 kakke agter = a boep

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  6. Yep… and some pooh-poohed my claims that Matfield and co had to tap him on the shoulder at LO time as he didn’t have a farkin clue what was going on…

    Why is it expected that every POC in whatever position should be going on to higher acclaim just because… particularly in the loose-forward position where RSA still pumps them out… ludicrous…

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  7. As an aside… there’s been a heap of ‘brain-analysis’ fodder on the threads of late… so just where is TB?

    Hope all is well with him…

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