Not getting picked? Hang in there!

BREYTON PAULSE spent two years in the Springbok squad before making his Test debut. In a MyPlayers Magazine feature, he explains how that made him a better player.

I became the top try-scorer in Super Rugby for consecutive years when I was first drafted into the Springbok mix.

I considered myself to be at the top of my game, I consistently disproved the notion that I was too small to play big rugby. I established myself in a very strong Stormers side, and I believed my performances warranted my inclusion in the Springbok team.

What ended up happening was me holding tackle bags for two years straight. I was frustrated and, at times, angry with the Bok coach [Nick Mallett].

I had to learn that no one 'deserves' to play for the Springboks – you either do or you don’t, but you don’t get to make that selection decision. It is done on your behalf.

You might think you deserve to be there, but all the while there is someone else working towards that same jersey – someone who might be much younger than you and whom you never competed against at school. Or, perhaps, someone who never even dreamt of playing for the Boks, like me or Makazole Mapimpi, but for whom the dream started flickering on the horizon just as we started getting the opportunities we never thought would come our way.

I might have been a 'late bloomer' in terms of opportunities, but my late yet strong entry into competitive rugby did not guarantee me anything. A coach like Nick Mallett expected more from me than consistently good Super Rugby performances – he wanted to see how badly I really wanted to be there, even if it meant holding tackle bags and working through the disappointment of not being included in his match-day sides for two years.

I eventually made my debut against Italy in Port Elizabeth in 1999. I waited so long for that opportunity and heaped additional pressure on myself as well. I had to show that I belong at the international level, scoring three tries on my way to redemption.

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When I retired from international rugby, I had played 64 Tests and 10 uncapped Springbok matches for South Africa.

Was I frustrated and angry in the long time leading up to my debut? Of course!

Am I disappointed that I had to wait so long? Never!

I believe grit and perseverance made me a better rugby player, and that served me well in an international career that spanned nine seasons.

ALSO READ: How Paulse's rugby dream began

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