Stormers rookie Suleiman Hartzenberg.
The teenage sensation has burst onto the scene for the Stormers this season and is ready to take his game to the next level.
Stormers rookie Suleiman Hartzenberg.
Suleiman Hartzenberg has burst onto the scene for the Stormers this season and is keen to keep growing and learning from the best.
Less than a year after matriculating from Bishops, Hartzenberg made his senior debut for the Stormers in the opening match of the season against Connacht in Stellenbosch, and says the enormity of the life-changing moment did really sink in until after a while.
“It was a surreal feeling as I could not believe I was making my Stormers debut because I know the history behind the jersey. It meant so much because just a few months prior I made my Ikeys debut and before that I was playing high school rugby,” he said.
“I felt that it was an absolute blessing because I know not everyone gets the opportunity so early in their career. It is certainly a memory I will never forget. There was definitely nerves leading up to the game in the week but quite a few of the players helped to settle my nerves.”
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Since racing out for his debut, Hartzenberg has put in 10 appearances this season, scoring four tries.
The 19-year-old said that walking into a winning environment came with its own challenges, but he’s grateful for the help provided by the senior Stormers players and coaches.
“I wouldn’t say that it is easy, but the environment that the coaches and the players created made it easier for me to adapt to. With the Stormers being the URC Champions and ending on such a high last season, that pressure came by itself.
“Personally, you naturally add pressure on yourself too but what really helped calm me was players like Salmaan, Ruhan, Seabelo, Leolin, Adré, Junior and the coaches. It gave me great confidence that both the coaches and players believe in me; which made me feel like I wasn’t just there to fill in a gap.”
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The younger brother of Griquas wing Munier and former Western Province flank Yaya, Hartzenberg grew up in a family surrounded by rugby.
“Coming from a family of rugby players just made me fall in love with the game further,” he said.
“There were so many rugby conversations that it was so easy to speak about. After a game we would all chat about where we could have improved but also shared many laughs together. Having older brothers who have been through the rugby system definitely helped and guided me as I was able to learn from them.”
Hartzenberg capped off a dream 2022 by joining four Stormers teammates on a tour of the UK and Ireland with the South Africa ‘A’ side, his first involvement in a senior national team setup. Amid losses to the Bristol Bears and Munster, there was still plenty for Hartzenberg to take away from the tour.
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“My initial reaction to the news of making the team is something that I cannot describe. I don’t think there is a specific word that can explain it. Being amongst so many experienced and talented players and coaches definitely made me look at the game differently. I’ve learnt that the smallest decisions can change a result.
“Unfortunately the results did not go our way but reflecting back on it now, I actually walked away with more knowledge about the game than I came in with. Being in the room with coaches and players from other unions allowed me to learn from them which helped improve my game.”
After a week’s break the Stormers are back in action against the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld this weekend.
Hartzenberg was among the tries when the Stormers hosted the Vodacom Bulls in Cape Town in December and claimed their fourth successive Vodacom United Rugby Championship victory against the Pretoria rivals.
It is always a big occasion when the two teams meet and Hartzenberg is looking forward to the challenge in Pretoria.
“The level of excitement is completely different because of the preparation during the week, the crowd is also a major factor because there is a different type of atmosphere at the stadium for a game like this. The fixture against the Vodacom Bulls has a lot of history behind it.”
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