I managed to catch up to former Stormers, Saracens and now as Captain of the Bedford Blues loose forward Nick Fenton-Wells! The man has strong will power, has the balance to play hard and enjoys the social side of the game as well, and has lots of focus on the task he wants.
Nick has managed to appreciate the rise his former university had when they shifted from being the second rate university in the Cape to being competitive and emerging from the shadow of Maties!
He is ambitious and is about to take us on a short journey from playing some footy for Bishops, IKEY Tigers, Stormers, Saracens to mention a few; John Dobson, what a Fatcakes is and much more!
BC – You are known as Fat cakes? How did that come along?
NW – *A small chuckle* Most of my South African friends call me that, while my UK friends have not heard much of that name. It was born when I was at prep school and the holiday camp I went to run by my uncle.
I was on the swimming ramp when I dived into the water and made such a huge splash. He called me fatty-botty-Fent. My brother heard this and was a cause for that name becoming famous!
BC – How was your time at UCT, how that came about and the experience?
NW – In the first year John Dobson took over the role. He is a direct guy and never picked me in the initial squad. I went to find out why I was not picked. He was direct and said I was not fit enough or strong enough.
I went on to work hard in these areas for the next six months and when the next selection time came about I managed to make the cut. He kept his word, and in 2010-2011 I was captain and that was around the time John was with the Vodacom Cup side.
UCT rugby stands for everything that is rugby away from being paid. It has high values and family oriented. It allowed me to have a strong foundation to my game.
BC – Where was Nick when UCT made that historic come from behind win over Pukke?
NW – While in the UK watching the game, it was topsy-turvy. We managed to score in that last 7 minute burst to open up the game, and when we lost possession it looked over.
When the Pukke 10 tried a drop goal, I had no idea what he was thinking but there was a sense of belief! It was just amazing when we had a sense of ‘we can achieve anything’ and to get over the line.
The shot of the IKEY fans was amazing! What a win!!!
BC – The benefits of Varsity Cup to South African rugby?
NW – My biggest appreciation is that when good players played in universities, they would study but be lost in the systems and the spot light was on the Varsity Cup only or the contracted players.
Now they have the Varsity Shield and even the Community Cup has managed to bring back rugby to the students. It’s allowed students to study and play rugby at the same time.
You would struggle to study first and then try be a professional player! Credit to the tournament seeing how many guys have graduated from there to playing professional rugby!
BC – His time as a Western Province player?
NW – I was planning to go abroad after 2010. I wasn’t contracted, I had to get to work. Dobson and Kevin Foote also got me to extend my Post graduate degree and I managed to stay another season after 2011.
We went on to win the Vodacom Cup in 2012 and it was special. Dobson then, had promised to get me a contract elsewhere because he knew it was difficult to get one at Western Province.
I had played Currie Cup without receiving a contract the previous year, and I stayed on, I managed to play Super Rugby and I am so glad I did it. I made friends for life there.
BC – His name?
NW – It’s a frustrating name when filling out documentation like passports, however it has been one that has caused a stir over the years especially when a coach said it all wrong and one of my team mates Nick Koster almost fell out his chair in laughter- he heard (Falton-Wells)!
BC – His move to Saracens?
NW – After the Vodacom Cup, just before the Currie Cup we played EP Kings as they prepared for the Nations Cup.
Brendan Venter watched me play a few games and he also asked me after the EP Kings game if I had a contract. He said I must stay in touch and after a few months Western Province fulfilled a lifelong dream for me to join them which I thoroughly enjoyed and after a while Saracens also came in and offered me a contract and I took it.
To be fair I would have liked to stay longer in Cape Town, I would have played a Super Rugby semi and got more caps (injury crisis was allowing) but I have no regrets, I wanted a full season at Sarries and everything about the club is perfect.
BC – Bedford Blues journey?
NW – Having been loaned here when the Saracens had all their injured players back I was loaned out to get some game time. When I entered the gates of the Blues I felt at home.
The memories I had at Saracens where phenomenal, but loving life at the Blues and we made the Championship final which also saw us lose a lot of players.
In the last two season we struggled but with a settled squad we will be stronger this year.
BC – On John Dobson, the new Western Province coach?
NW – John is an upfront and honest person. I have known him for a while and he manages to give me advice as a player and career wise. He will give you a wise and honest answer and has the some amazing squad management skills.
I am not sure how he does that, but he is great with people and has a great technical skills side. He is an enigma. A fantastic guy who if I could play for him again, I would love to.
Lots of players appreciate him and his ability to surround himself with the right people who will make him better is another of his strengths- like when he had Kevin Foote and David Wessels working with him, two exceptional coaches at UCT.
He knows where he comes up short and he looks to surround himself with people that will strengthen that area.
BC – Lastly, Nick spoke about Maro Itoje…
NW – He is a beast, an absolute beast. He works extremely hard, a nice guy and a Saracens graduate. He is bright, intelligent and a real leader at such a young age.
He is a freak of nature and will continue to grow from strength to strength.
A player that has displayed excellence, hard work and also an example for players out there. A gentleman that left the Cape and is making waves in the UK.