He took a bit of a roundabout route to get there, but when Declan Raubenheimer eventually settled into the number 10 shirt for Jeppe, and for the Golden Lions Craven Week team, he found it to his liking. So much so that he emerged as one of the top schoolboy flyhalves in the country and has been invited to SA Rugby’s under-17 High Performance Camp in Cape Town in the October holidays.
“I started the year playing fullback for the seconds,” he explained, “then Mr Hammond said I had grown so much in the off-season that they wanted to try me out as a forward. So, I made my first team debut as a flank and played three games there before they moved me to flyhalf, which is the position I like most.”
He enjoyed his time on the flank, he said, although it was tough. “The forwards definitely work harder than the backs, but I enjoyed the contact. I’m happy now though. I like being the playmaker and Mr Spilhaus and the coaches allowed me to do that for the 1st team.”
His first team debut was definitely the highlight of the season for him. “It was at home against St Alban’s, and to experience the support and the spirit was great.” As he never played in the first KES game, being there for the second was another highlight. “I missed two kicks at goal for the second team at KES, and we drew 10-all, so playing in the 1sts against KES in the return fixture, and having a good game with the boot, made up for that.
Declan gives a lot of credit for what he has achieved to his team mates, and to the coaches. “Mr Spilhaus can be a hard taskmaster, but that’s what I like, He backed me even when I got things wrong because he believes in me and always tells me to play the game the way I see it.”
He also gives credit to his father, Sean Raubenheimer, who was something of a Jeppe legend in the early 1990s. He played for the first team for three years and also represented the province at the Craven Week.
“My dad is my strictest critic, but also my biggest supporter,” he said. “He is pretty fit still and we train together, in the gym and on the field. I owe a lot to him.”
The 2019 season has already started, the boys are in pre-season training, and Declan is out there with them. He’ll be taking a break in October to test himself against the best players in the country of his generation. There’s no doubt that he will come through, and he will be doing great things for the black and white again next year.