Nic Groom loves team sports and the team environment. He loves how working in a collective to achieve a common goal raises the individual to greater heights than he thought possible.
That is why the DHL Stormers scrumhalf loves the FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff. This tournament, like it was for so many players, gave Groom a path to a viable rugby career.
But unlike most players, that’s not what stands out for ‘Groomie’. It’s not what he loves most about Varsity Cup – it’s just a happy by-product of the tournament.
Groom played for the FNB UCT Ikey Tigers in 2010 and 2011 while he was completing his social science degree in organisational psychology. Like many of his teammates, he was a bona fide student on the campus when he played.
“After school I went to the WP Rugby Institute for a while but I missed being part of a team,” Groom says.
“When I joined UCT I found a home. There were guys from Bishops, SACS and Rondebosch and other schools who were now part of the UCT family. It was amazing to be a part of that again.
“The environment and commitment shown by everyone was amazing and to be a part of that was indescribable. Honestly, it changed the entire way I looked at rugby and life.
“At UCT it wasn’t actually about the rugby. We were focused on becoming better individuals. There was room and freedom to express yourself. People from different cultures and backgrounds subscribed to a way of training and playing and a way of bonding with each other.
“Before joining UCT I used to value the wrong things in the game and be serious about issues that, looking back now, were not going to be there forever.
“Being at UCT I learnt valuable lessons about being a team. Many of those guys I played alongside were incredible rugby players studying ridiculous degrees. Yet we went on to do good things without being paid, like many players in the other teams were.
“We would rock up every Monday and none of the opposition would know who we were because so few of us had played Craven Week or been to an academy.
“But still we would beat them because there was a total disregard for who we played against. It was all about UCT, playing the way we wanted to play and representing the style and brand that is unique to UCT.
“We beat teams we probably should never have beaten.
“We made a final (2010), and then we won it the following year (2011). Just the idea of these guys beating the odds on so many levels, and the fact that they are still my best mates to this day, makes it special.”
Groom, unlike many other successful players, still finds the time to give back to UCT despite his busy schedule with the Stormers.
When he’s not at the Stormers’ training base in Bellville in Cape Town’s northern suburbs, he can be found coaching Under-20s at Ikeys.
“I’ve been helping out with coaching the UCT Under-20 side in the Young Guns competition,” Groom says.
“UCT gave me a bursary to study and gave me an opportunity and the least I can do is give back.
“These guys are so much younger than me, but I see the same traits and traditions that were there when I played. It has been therapeutic for me.
“UCT Rugby ignites the passion I have for rugby. It emphasises the little things that last forever in the game.”
By Craig Ray