Bonteheuwel rugby player Imaad Phillips has taken another step towards his dream of donning the green gold for South Africa.
The 18-year-old has signed a two-year contract with the Western Province under-20 side.
Phillips, who matriculated from Milnerton High School in 2020, could have started his pro rugby career even sooner if it wasn’t for the Covid-19 pandemic that forced a shutdown of all sporting activity last year.
However, he says as much as his plans were delayed, the signing of the contract last week is the start of a new chapter in his life, one that he believes will culminate in him donning the Springbok jersey.
“The first priority now is to join the province and work my way up to the Currie Cup squad and from there, the ultimate goal is the Springboks,” said Phillips, who stands at over 2m tall.
Phillips has the support of the man who once had the same belief in Damian de Allende who went on to be part of the Rugby World Cup winning Springbok side of 2019.
Milnerton High director of rugby and coach, Henrick Martin, knew when he first coached De Allende at the school years back that he was something special.
Martin says he also knew from the get go that Phillips was another star in the making and he had to keep him tight under his wing to ensure he developed his skills.
“He is a great talent because of his high work ethic and that is part of what we teach them here and that hard work pays off,” said Martin.
“I met him in 2019 when his dad wanted us to meet so I could coach him and immediately I saw something special.
“He is an exceptional worker and you don’t get a lot of boys that are 206cm tall so that already makes him a giant of a man so my job was simple, to just teach him the fundamentals of the game and apply those in the field,” said Martin.
Phillips too has confidence in himself, and believes the WP contract is the start of a prosperous career.
He says it was at the age of 16 that he decided to aim for rugby as a potential career.
At Milnerton High he found exactly the kind of environment he needed to take his game to the next level.
“Just the growth is what I needed because the school was a whole different atmosphere for me from where I come from,” said Phillips
“Last year already was supposed to be my break out year by the way I started in the first few games before Covid-19. But it’s fine because now we are here,” says Phillips.
“I don’t want to promise much but I want to make the most of the opportunity and I want to thank Mr Martin because he did a lot for my development.”
Phillips says he knows alot of hard work lies ahead to develop the skills that saw him being chosen to wear the blue and white colours of WP, but with his family and his coach at his former school on his side, he has all the support needed to deal with all the emotional elements he might bump into in his professional journey.
Even though he is now at a level higher, he will feel he is not in unfamiliar territory as he begins his professional career as he has made the provincial academy squad before, as a schoolboy.
“There is something special about him, and a massive potential, he just needs to develop it and he should make it big,” said Martin.