Rugby: S African in Otago to learn

Eben JoubertHarbour flanker Eben Joubert is bringing a tough and uncompromising approach to Dunedin club rugby this winter.

Joubert (24), a teacher of mathematics and science, has come to Dunedin from South Africa to improve his rugby and become a professional rugby player.

He comes to Dunedin with an impressive pedigree.

He played premier club rugby for the University of Pretoria for seven years, represented the Blue Bulls in the Vodacom Cup last year and played for the Blue Bulls and Sharks in sevens.

"I've heard of Otago rugby and have so much respect for it," Joubert said.

"The House of Pain and Otago rugby is legendary in South Africa. It's an honour for me to be here. I want to learn as much as I can."

The Dunedin influence started at the Malaysian tens last year when he was in a team coached by former Otago All Blacks Duncan Robertson and Jeff Matheson.

"We suggested to Otago selector Bruce Carvell that he [Joubert] should be invited to play rugby in Dunedin," Matheson said.

"He's a superb player and good enough to play for Otago, otherwise we wouldn't have brought him here. Otago needs tough and uncompromising players like Eben."

Joubert (24) displayed the strong physical approach at flanker when Harbour beat Pirates 18-14 in a cliff-hanger at Hancock Park last Saturday.

"It was rugged physical rugby. Just like we play in South Africa. I loved it," Joubert said.

Joubert has found the standard of club rugby in Dunedin similar to that in the Carlton Cup competition in Pretoria club rugby.

He is working as a house master at the Otago Boys High School hostel, but his goal is to become a professional rugby player.

"I would have loved to get a contract in South Africa but the ball didn't roll for me," he said.

He is short of stature and this counted against him in South African rugby. He has played No 6 for Harbour but was a hooker in the Malaysian tens tournament.

"I'll play anywhere," he said.

"My aim is to get into the Otago Air New Zealand Cup squad and then play Super 14 rugby."

But his immediate focus is to help Harbour reach the top six, make the final and win the championship this year.

He admires short flankers like himself - internationals Neil Back (England) and Corne Krige (South Africa) are his favourites, but he is also a fan of All Black captain Richie McCaw.

His father Francois Joubert, a minister in the Dutch Reformed Church, is his biggest supporter.

"He was never too hard and never too lax on me," Joubert said. "He just gave me awesome support.