Toyota Cheetahs loose forward Junior Pokomela may have all his attention on hitting the books for exams this week, but that will change on Saturday when he turns his focus to the Cardiff Blues to claim his 50th cap for the franchise.
Pokomela, who hails from Grey High School in Port Elizabeth, will play his 50th game for the Cheetahs in the PRO14 Championship this weekend. His journey includes two Super Rugby caps, 14 Currie Cup and 33 PRO14 appearances for the Bloemfontein-based side.
With Kolisi hailing from the same school, Pokomela wants to channel the inspiration that Kolisi has brought the country by winning the Rugby World Cup into a special performance to help the Cheetahs break their tour duck thus far.
“It is a small victory for me, but it is a big thing, as it happened so quickly. I wasn’t expecting it and didn’t even know it happened. It is an honour to be playing my 50th game this weekend. I wouldn’t have done it without the guys I’ve played with before and the guys now. I’m grateful to the coaches who gave me the opportunity and hopefully I can contribute more to the team,” Pokomela says looking towards the game.
Like Kolisi he attended Grey on a scholarship, snapped up from Victoria Park Primary School and was given the opportunity to further his talent in an environment that encouraged growth.
“When I got there, Siya Kolisi wasn’t there anymore, but he was obviously a famous man at the school. There are a couple of Boks that came from the school, but I feel he is the one who stood out.
“How he grew up and how he made the most of his opportunities. That is what inspires a lot of people, including me and others in South Africa. I feel he has set the benchmark, and hopefully more can follow and produce what he has produced,” Pokomela adds.
For now the week has been taken up in Cardiff studying between practice sessions as he looks to further his studies with a Bachelors of Business Administration. Pokomela wrote an exam on Wednesday and has another for Thursday before he takes the field on Saturday.
“It’s a challenge to study while you’re playing, but I am trying my best and hopefully I can get it done. It just keeps you in line. I wrote an exam today and writing another tomorrow so it is quite a tough one,” he adds.
But challenges don’t scare Pokomela at all. At the moment he is doing his utmost to forge ahead. Kolisi’s benchmark ranks high in his goals and this weekend he hopes to add another chapter to his career and take another step in his own legacy.