After a decade with the University of Johannesburg, strength and conditioning coach Jacques Durand received higher recognition when he was selected as part of the coaching staff for the Varsity Cup Dream Team.
Durand, who has been part of UJ’s coaching staff since the competition’s inception in 2008, was named sports scientist for the Dream Team that played against the Junior Springboks last week.
“Personally, it’s a great reward for my years of involvement in the Varsity Cup,” said Durand, who is believed to be the longest-serving coaching staff member in the tournament.
“The opportunity is really special and it’s great getting to work with the young talent that will cement the future of rugby in our country,” he said upon his appointment.
UJ have developed into one of the leading Varsity Cup teams during Durand’s tenure, having reached the playoffs five times since 2008.
Another personal highlight for Durand was winning the Melrose Sevens in Scotland in 2010.
His teams have also won the Pirates Grand Challenge in Johannesburg six times in the last seven years and Durand said their focus would be to bag the fourth title in a row this season.
Accustomed to working with one team on a continuous basis, Durand said coaching a squad such as the Dream Team once-off came with a number of challenges.
“It’s difficult to create complex structures or attacking patterns while at the same time getting the brilliance of all the players to gel.
“Having said that, it’s also a nice challenge to try and create something special in a limited time.”
Durand said the environment in training prior to the match – which the Junior Boks won 50-19 – had been positive.
“The coaching staff definitely created a very positive vibe and they were awesome to work with.”
Going into the match in Stellenbosch, he acknowledged they were in for a tough battle.
“We had only experienced positive attitudes from the team but knew it was always going to be tough playing against the best players in their respective age groups.
“They also had the advantage of having prepared as a team for some time.”
Despite going down, Durand said he was happy about gaining exposure at the next level.