Oakville Crusaders’ Played Pivotal Role in Developing World Class Rugby Player

Djustice Sears Duru Canada“The Pro Report” interview is reprinted with the permission of Djustice Sears Duru of the Leicester Tigers Academy.

JH: Djustice, one of the great things about being able to interview a young man like yourself, is that you have been the product of nearly every elite rugby program Canada has to offer. We will cover some of them in detail; however, when you look back, when was the moment that you felt you really had what it took to play rugby overseas?

DSD: When I was 13 years old, my club, Oakville Crusaders, went on a great tour of England. It was there that I first thought about playing rugby overseas. When I went on the tours with the canada U17, we played such quality matches that it really boosted my confidence about my own abilities to be able to play at a high level and have the possibility of playing overseas.

JH: Ontario has certainly produced some outstanding rugby products in the last few years, Conor McCann, Taylor Paris, and Tyler Ardron, just to name a few. Can you talk a little about your coaches at the club and provincial level in Ontario, and what they did to aid in your development?

DSD: I have been very lucky to have great coaches both at the club and provincial levels. When I first started at U12 with the Oakville Crusaders, the most important thing was just to have fun. Two years later I was selected to the Ontario provincial team. Both the provincial and club coaches helped me to improve my skills and taught me that rugby is also about respect and teamwork. The Crusaders and provincial coaches have always been very supportive of my rugby goals and even now, I still try and keep in contact with a few coaches.

JH: Every year U17 Head Coach jim Delaney generally takes a small number of talented U16 players on his U17 overseas tour. You had the opportunity to play two seasons with Canada’s U17 program. Can you talk about those opportunities and what they contributed to your growth as a player?

Photo credit: Dhammika Heenpella / Images of Sri Lanka / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Photo credit: Dhammika Heenpella / Images of Sri Lanka / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

DSD: I was very pleased that Coach Delaney allowed me to play for two seasons with the Canada U17 team. It was truly an amazing experience and gave me a chance to learn what it takes to play in an international competition and at an elite level. In my first season, I was one of the youngest on the team at 15 years., and had lots of opportunities to learn from the older players. My second season, because of my past experience, I was given some leadership opportunities with the team and our expectations were high for success. I found that I grew in skill development, decision-making and confidence because of my time with the Canada U 17 Program.

JH: When you started to really physically mature, you made the decision to join current Canada U20 Coach Tim Murdy at Shawnigan Lake School, in BC. That choice resulted in you being exposed to a number of high performance opportunities, including the World  championships in Japan. Can you speak about your time at Shawnigan in general, and the Japan tournament in particular?

DSD: Although it was a tough decision to leave my family and friends and move to BC, attending Shawnigan Lake School was the best decision I could have ever made and was one of the greatest experiences of my life. The School, friends, teachers, sports (I played basketball and rugby) were outstanding. Shawigan really helped me to grow and mature, not only in sport, but as a young man. The passion and commitment that everyone has in all aspects of life at Shawnigan, and especially toward rugby, was amazing.

Coach Murdy was great to work with, He taught me the importance f hard work, to strive for success and focus on becoming a better player and a better person. The tournament in Japan was a phenomenal experience and beating the World Champions from New Zealand was amazing. The tournament showed me how global our sport really is, as every continent was represented by some of the best teams in the world. All the games were really intense and pushed me to work to the best of my abilities. We also had a chance to visit Hiroshima Museum and the images there will remain with me forever.

JH: Your last U17 tour resulted in an offer being made for you to join the Leicester Academy, one of England’s top club programs. We’ll talk about that experience in a moment, but can you talk a little about how you decided that was an opportunity you wanted to pursue?

djustice leicester tigers academy squadDSD: I was surprised when I gt that initial call to go and train with the Leicester Tigers Academy in the summer of 2011, and following that a call from Coach McCarthy with an offer to join the Academy full time. When deciding if the Academy was something that I should pursue, I consulted with my family and people who had become mentors in my life, including Mike “Pinball” Clemons and Coaches Delaney, Dukelow, Leggatt and Murdy. I always knew that I wanted to become a professional player, as well as play with the National team and thought that an opportunity to play with the best rugby club in the world would help me achieve those goals.

Although I was offered an opportunity to complete my final year of high school as part of the Leicester Academy, I chose to first graduate from Shawnigan first before moving to England.

JH: For those young and ambitious players who will want to follow your path, what is life like for a Leicester Tigers Academy player?

DSD: Academy life is full of hard work. We train everyday, sometimes up to four different sessions a day, including strength and conditioning, cardio, position specific training as well as team skill and strategy sessions. The sessions are very intense and make sure that we work extremely hard.

Outside of training my life mainly consists of hanging out with fellow academy players, especially as I live in a house with four other members of the academy.

JH: Academy players don’t generally play anywhere near as many games as full professionals. How many games has your time at the academy afforded you?

DSD: The academy has their own league, as well as exhibition games totalling about three games per month, so there are a lot of opportunities to play. Since I came in mid-August, I have played in about 6 games but have just sustained an ankle injury, so I am on the sidelines for a few more weeks. I look forward to playing in the rest of the Academy season, which re-starts in January.

JH: In your time in the Canadian program, you have moved around the forward pack, from flanker to hooker to prop. Obviously, national team players will play wherever they are asked to; however, do you have a position that you are targeting right now, in your time with Leicester.

DSD: Right now at Leicester, I am focusing on the prop positions. I am trying to learn both loose-head and tight-head, so I can be more versatile forward. However, as I have played a variety of positions, I will be comfortable wherever the coaches place me.

JH: You will know something about the standard of the U20 program, having spent time with Coach Murdy at Shawnigan Lake School. Is this the year that you will be targeting a spot on Canada’s U20 Squad at the IRB World Junior Trophy tournament?

DSD: It has been one of my dreams to play for Canada at every level, so the Canada U20 program is something I am definitely aiming for this year. Having played for Coach Murdy before, I know the U20 program will be strong, in terms of coaching, training, and competing.

JH: Finally, Djustice, having been one of the more successful player in Canada from your age-grade, what advice would you give to some of the younger players, who may want to find themselves with an overseas academy one day?

DSD: This may sound like a cliché, but it is that true hard work and believing in yourself does pay off. If you train hard, on and off the field, the rest will come. Don’t worry about it if you don’t make a team on year, because if you remain committed and have a strong work ethic, you’ll be back next year showing the coaches and yourself, exactly why you should be there. It is also important to really enjoy what you are doing, and to have fun doing it.

*Since the article the Canada U20 Coach Tim Murdy has stepped down as Head Coach and now Mike Shelley has taken over that position.  Mike Shelley is the Rugby Canada National Academy and Canada U20 Head Coach.

 

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