Joe Henderson has just returned from the Country Schools Development rugby tour in South Africa.
The 14-day journey which started on April 4 was a “real eye opener” for the 17-year-old local.
“It was an incredible experience; I learned a lot both on and off the footy field,” Henderson said.
His tour kicked off in Mauritius.
His first game against a Mauritian team on April 5 was an easy win for the Country boys as they dusted up the locals 37-0.
Henderson spent most of his time in the centres and was solid in both defence and attack.
“I picked up my skills in defence as soon as we touched down in South Africa. We were playing against some big boys.”
After three days in Mauritius they boarded a plane to Johannesburg and then on to Cape Town.
It was in Cape Town that the boys were granted free time to experience the South African culture.
“I really got to see what life was like for some of the locals who were living in poverty; it made me appreciate what we have in Australia.”
Their next game was up against a team who were from a poverty stricken township just outside of Cape Town.
Once again the Country squad were too strong for the home side winning 35-3.
The team boarded a bus the following day and travelled to Oudtshoorn.
They experienced their first real test against Langenhoven Gymnasium Rugby XV.
“It was definitely one of the hardest games on the tour; everyone had to step up and we were lucky to come away with the win,” Henderson said.
The following day the team got up close and personal with some lions and tigers at the Cango Wildlife Ranch and were taken on a ‘game drive’ to see some wild buffalo, elephants, rhinos and hippos.
“It was pretty crazy; it makes me feel a lot safer in Australia that’s for sure!”
They then headed to Knysna to play against Knysna High School which was another easy win for the Country side cleaning them up 60-0.
Port Elizabeth was the final stop on the tour.
After winning every game the pressure was on to finish with a perfect clean sweep.
The game was against the Grey High School invitational first XV who are ranked in the top three best schoolboy rugby teams in South Africa.
The Grey High School side consisted of both third and second grade players.
“We knew we were in for a tough match and everybody had to play at their best if we wanted to come away with the win,” Henderson said.
“It was definitely our biggest match on the tour.”
The final score was 24-20 to the Country squad making it a perfect run for the tour.
“It was a really tough game; they had plenty of size and some speed out wide. We really had to give it our best shot and we were lucky to be the better team on the day,” Henderson said.
Henderson said he had taken home some life skills that would last with him forever.
“I’m really lucky to have had the opportunity to travel to South Africa. My footy skills have definitely improved and I have learned a lot off the field as well.”