The Lithuanian men’s national rugby team, 30:10 defeated Czech Republic national team and gain its first victory in the Europe’s Trophy Division. Richard De Jager, a friend of Lithuanian rugby from Republic of South Africa (RSA), was watching this match in the stadium. The friendship between Lithuanian rugby union and Richard De Jager has begun in 2011 and already brought a lot of positive movements – more and more talented Lithuanians can join Sharks Academy, RSA.
We met Richard De Jager, the head of the RSA Rugby federation exchange program, in Siauliai city stadium, before match between Lithuania and the Czech Republic national teams. The specialist shared his thoughts about the seven-year long friendship, the work already done for the benefit of the Lithuanian rugby and the plans for the future.
You came to Siauliai to watch the debut Lithuanian match in the Trophy Division. What does this match mean to you as a specialist, who works with rugby talents from many countries in the world?
First of all, I am very pleased to see that all efforts to raise the Lithuanian rugby to a higher level succed. For me, this match is important because the entry of the Lithuanian team into the Trophy division means that we work towards right direction. I am glad that the guys who participated in the exchange program, return to back to their country and help the national team aim for the win.
How did your cooperation with the Lithuanian rugby union begin?
The reason I started this program is that my firied Linas Naujalis contacted me and presented his dream to bring Lithuanian rugby in a higher level. We started look for opportunities. We found common interests and we started to work. We searched for suitable programs in England, RSA, which would suit young athletes and help them to improve.
I am especially pleased to see Karolis Navickas, who is the first Lithuanian rugby player who took participation in exchange program in 2011, now is one of the leaders of the Lithuanian national team.
Jonas Mikalčius and Dovydas Taujanskas were among the first to go to the Sharks Academy. After they finished their time in academy, we found them place in Hartpury College in England. They were offered a scholarship, for representing colleges rugby team and several years later they graduated.
Currently, in RSA Sharks Academy there are eight Lithuanians, six studying at the school, two already having contracts with the Sharks Academy team. In the coming year, we plan to give opportunity to improve in RSA and England altogether – 13 boys.
What benefits do you get in helping to improve the Lithuanian rugby?
I do not earn money for helping the Lithuanian rugby. Some people do not believe that I work totally free. I have a business from which I make money. I am earning money from other countries, but not Lithuania. If the program in Lithuania is successful – I can present it as an example of my running programs. Then, others pay me for doing that in their countries. I develop my business in England – I organize camps. Young people pay for participating in these camps.
Hong Kong, Chile, Argentina, Germany, Austria, South Africa, England, Latvia, Lithuania, France are the countries from which young people came to participate in the camp. Lithuanian Dominykas Trinka was chosen as the best player in the camp. Due to the fact that he was the best in the camp, Dominykas got an offer to take a place at a school in England. This is the essence of the camp, to find out the best players. The school costs 30 thousand Euros a year. Dominykas will not pay a single Euro. I negotiate with schools, I offer them very talented young people, and they commit to giving a scholarship. The school gets a great player, the young man gets a very high level of education and constantly learns the rugby from the best coaches.
I heard you are planning to organize a camp in Lithuania as well.
That’s true, we have already discussed opportunities for a camp in Siauliai. If the preparatory work is done in time, we plan to organize the camp in March or April next year. I will bring the best coaches from all over the world. Of course, I think that many players would be from Siauliai and other Lithuanian cities. We can also invite players to participate in the camp from neighboring countries of Lithuania. The number of camp participants is not limited. There may be 50, maybe 150. The only difference is how many specialists we have to invite to train the participants.
The idea is to start our program in Lithuania and not just to look for opportunities to send young people to other countries. This is already happening with the Lithuanian national rugby team. Ntando Manyosha (Biza) is a coach from the Republic of South Africa. He works not only with the National team, but also trains the team „Šiauliai“.
Another visiting coach works in Kaunas „Žalgiris“ rugby team. So there are already not only two strong clubs, but four in Lithuania. This means that matches are higher level. Players improve and rugby level are rising.