The rugby world cup is less than two months away and rugby fever is mounting. We met a young North Coast rugby player with big dreams who has already represented his country in another massive international tournament, the Maccabi Games in Israel.
Sport has always just been his thing. Even from a very young age, 19-year-old Palm Lakes’ student Michael Sweet has loved participating in almost every type of sport available.
And being chosen to represent his country as part of the junior rugby team at the Maccabi Games in 2017 was a dream come true for the ambitious young sportsman.
The Maccabi Game is the third largest sporting event in the world, after the Olympics and the Fifa World Cup. Dubbed the ‘Jewish Olympics’, the games are open to Jewish athletes from around the world with more than 10 000 athletes competing in the last games in Israel.
Born in Pretoria, Michael lived in Durban for most of his life before moving to Palm Lakes Estate on the North Coast two years ago.
Michael represented both Clifton Prep and High School in the A teams for hockey, water polo and rugby. He changed school in Grade 9 and moved to Northwood where he again played A team for all his chosen sports.
At the end of 2015 Michael decided to focus solely on rugby and it paid off when he was chosen as a member of the SA under-18 rugby team for the Maccabi Games. Something Michael says, he will never forget.
“It was an incredible experience. It’s a massive event. The opening ceremony includes a parade of nations, just like the regular Olympics, where you walk in a parade with the whole delegation from your country. They have these huge areas just for athletes where you can have a massage, eat and watch other games. It was also very hot and humid. We played our matches at 11.30pm at night sometimes and it was still 45 degrees!”
Back at home Michael was still excelling in his sport and although he moved to a home school (to free up more time to focus on his training), Michael was still asked to represent Durban North College as a member of both their 15’s and 7’s first teams. He was asked to come back and play for them the following year as well, in his matric year.
Now in his ‘gap year’ Michael is taking some time out to figure out his next move in terms of his rugby career. He has his own business, buying and selling off-road bikes and cars (which he says he’s been running since he was 16) and is very mechanically-minded.
When he’s not practicing, sports-crazy Michael enjoys off-road enduro riding and plays five-a-side soccer in the estate every day. While he was chosen to play in the Sharks Academy Michael decided against it. His ultimate dream is to study and play rugby in the USA.
Asked if he would encourage other young Jewish athletes to try out, Michael says he definitely would. “It was a life-changing experience for me. I made friends from around the world that I am still friends with today, and being able to play rugby at that international level was invaluable.”
Text: Leah Shone