by STUART RUTHERFORD
GRAMMY award-winning musician, Sting, once famously sang about an ‘Englishman in New York’. Well, after the ferocious enthusiasm with which Springbok winger Tythan Adams has taken to Scottish rugby, the songwriter should perhaps think about altering his lyrics to a ‘South African in Selkirk.’
With ten tries in thirteen league and cup appearances, Adams – who joined the club in November as part of the Gold Cup’s exchange programme – has certainly hit a high note with teammates and supporters alike.
The Gold Cup is the top competition for non-university rugby union clubs in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe. The exchange programme is part of an ongoing collaboration between SA Rugby, the British High Commission and Selkirk, aimed at giving South Africa’s best amateur players a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience living and playing rugby in another country.
Whilst Adams has proven to be a shining light amid the Philliphaugh outfit’s stuttering National One campaign, it has been the winger’s impressive performances in the Kings of the Sevens circuit which have made fans of the oval ball game truly sit up and take notice.
With a tantalising side-step and pace to burn, Adams was at his unmissable best as Selkirk proved to be the surprise package at this year’s Melrose Sevens. Although the Souters fell in the quarter-finals to the hosts and eventual runners-up, the South-African was one of the most exciting players to watch during the tournament – a view Melrose clearly shared, as they drafted in the winger for their final against Harlequins. Adams’ scoring escapades have continued throughout the King of the Sevens series, and whilst his side tasted silverware at Langholm – defeating Watsonians 24-21 in a thrilling final – the winger has earmarked this weekend’s home tournament as being paramount.
“I actually go home to South Africa on the 14th of May – the day after Jed Sevens – so to win Selkirk, and finish my journey here with a victory in front of our supporters would be incredible. We obviously had a tough time last weekend, going out in the early rounds at both Kelso and Earlston, but everyone has come together this week in training and we know that, for us, Selkirk is the big one,” he said.
Adams, who is from Vredenburg (a small town located an hour’s drive north of Cape Town), was top try-scorer in last season’s Gold Cup, – with ten scores in five games – which led to several offers to move up a level inside South Africa. However, the 26-year-old explains that the chance to play overseas was simply too appealing to turn down.
“I went to high school in Stellenbosch at Paul Roos Gymnasium, which is a famous rugby school known throughout South Africa. The man it was named after – Paul Roos – was actually the first Springbok captain to tour overseas,” he explains.
“After matriculating my final year at school, I attended Stellenbosch University where I ended up winning the Varsity Cup in 2010. That was the last year the team – nicknamed ‘Maties’ – won the tournament and I actually played the whole season alongside Josh Strauss. He sadly didn’t have his beard back then though. I think he started to grow it when he signed for the Lions later that year!”
“Then, last season, after finishing university in Port Elizabeth, I played for College Rovers in Durban. We made it to the quarter-finals of the Gold Cup and I ended up winning player of the tournament, and from there I got the chance to come over to Scotland on this exchange programme.”
“I’m basically a sports fanatic and I had always wanted to play overseas. I obviously knew the likes of Chris Paterson, Chris Cusiter and the Scottish legends who had played for the Lions – so when I got the chance to come over to Selkirk, I was never going to turn it down. I’ve never doubted the decision.”
Adams admits that Scotland’s “slow and muddy pitches” were a bit of a shock to the system at first – he was forced to exchange his boots within a week of arriving in the country – but off the field he has had no problems acclimatising to life in the Scottish Borders.
“For me, it wasn’t too big a shock. I’m from an area called Platteland – which roughly translates to ‘country’ – so it isn’t too dissimilar to the Borders. Selkirk has felt just like home. I really didn’t have to adapt,” he says.
“I speak Afrikaans, but the majority of people speak English in Port Elizabeth, so I was pretty used to it. Obviously, the first few training sessions were a bit of a struggle, especially with some of the coach’s accents, but I won’t name any names.”
“I’ve really got a sense of the rivalry between the clubs in the Borders. After I played in the final for Melrose at their Sevens one of the Selkirk coaches came up to me afterwards and said I have to take a hot shower and scrub myself, just to make sure I don’t have any of Melrose left on me!”
Adams arrived in Selkirk alongside prop-forward, Ian Oosthuizen, who has since gone on to make his professional debut for Boland Kalaliers. Whilst the winger – who as part of the exchange agreement, trains with Edinburgh once a week – hopes to follow Oosthaizen’s lead when he returns to South Africa, he admits that Selkirk will always have a place in his heart.
“I’ll really miss Selkirk’s quietness and how safe you feel here. You can walk around the town at midnight or one o’clock in the morning and no one will even approach you. Back home, you don’t even think about leaving the house after 10 o’clock,” he says.
“I’ll especially miss the people throughout the club though. Everybody cares about each other, and they all really look after each other – I’ve been treated so well. Right now, my focus is to get a pro contract somewhere, and just live my dream – but to win Selkirk Sevens would be a nice way to top things off.”