At stake is an Olympic gold medal

ON THE BALL: Sport is about dreams – and Ricky Duarttee’s dream of gold could come true, writes Lucky Maree.

How can South African Rugby and the SA Olympics committee not recognise this opportunity to win gold for South Africa? 

They need to put the best resources in South Africa – including drawing coaches and players from the 15-man game – to help the Blitzboks go for gold.

It would be a shame to deny Ricky Duarttee, the sevens Rookie of the Year, his one shot at gold. Australia have the kangaroo as their good luck charm – our good luck charm is Ricky Duarttee.

Ricky’s mother Juanita Duarttee admits that her son was not the easiest of little boys – but that’s the understatement of a loving mother. 

But he always loved rugby.

“He was six years old when he played his first match,” said Juanita. “He put his scrum cap on back to front, but he wouldn’t take it off for days.”


But in high school he hit a few speed bumps.

“That’s when my discipline problems started,” he admits.

Discipline problems, neh?

The truth is, Ricky was a naughty little hell raiser. And as he grew older, he got worse not better. Fighting, bunking, drinking and getting thrown out of school were only some of his “achievements”.

He was suspended from school at 11 pm one night, Juanita remembers. And that was not the first time.   

Angelo Davids, one of the stars of Western Province rugby and Ricky’s school friend says: “In those days he was still partying, partying.”

But as his interest in academics disappeared so his love for rugby grew. And he was clearly a star in the making. But fate intervened. He broke his ankle and didn’t get that all-important contract to play rugby semi-professionally – and it could have ended his dreams.

But for once in his life, Ricky fought back. And so starts one of the stories that rugby legends are made of.

He went to UJ where he played Under 19 rugby. And playing rugby he did and studying he didn’t.

He came home without a degree and was sent to work in Die Visfabriek, his parents’ fish factory, getting paid by the hour in case he deserted.

He started playing at Western Province but then came Covid and Ricky was once again level with the ground.

He moved in with his friend and co-trainer Fabio Martinez and Ricky did the one thing he could do. Between the two of them they developed, and lived by, a hellish training programme.

For once he got lucky. He played as an invitational player at the training academy in Stellenbosch and impressed so much that he was offered a training spot but he needed 

R125,000 to pay for the season.

His parents, at the end of their rope, said they wouldn’t help. The story of Ricky selling his car is well-known – and his career took off.

“In Dubai, out in the desert, the first time as a Blitzbok. I’ll never forget it,” he says.

In a season where South Africa sevens has been disappointing, Duarttee’s greatest achievement to date is being recognised as “Rookie of the Year.”

When the Olympic Games in Paris come around next year – in 425 days to be precise – South Africa will have only a few real opportunities to win gold medals. And one of those chances is through rugby sevens.

But it has been disappointing watching the Blitzboks slipping down the rankings and now have to fight for qualification. 

Repeating the same action over and over and hoping for a different outcome, as everybody knows, is a stupid mistake.

South African Rugby and the SA Olympics committee better wake up.

Ricky has a dream – and we must back him.

Pictured above: Ricky Duarttee

Image source: Twitter

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