Uzair Cassiem is a South African Rugby Union player currently playing for the Cheetahs in Super Rugby and the Free State Cheetahs in the Currie Cup who he helped win the elusive trophy and was subsequently named Man of the Match in the 2016 Currie Cup final. During November 2016 Cassiem was included in the Springboks End of Year Tour. We wanted to find out more about Uzair and caught up with him to talk about his rugby, the dynamics of team sport and the coaches who have influenced him the most.
Please tell us a little about yourself and where the love of sports began?
Uzair Cassiem: I am currently flanker for the Freestate Cheetahs and Springbok no 878. I was born in Strand, Western Cape and grew up there in an underprivileged community. It was there that my love for sports began with soccer, but a coach in primary immediately moved me to rugby. The sport was a way to keep myself busy and also led to me being in a very good secondary school- Strand High. Here I developed in sports.
“...it starts with yourself to get up in the morning and get motivated to bring the best you to the team...” - Uzair Cassiem
Your usual position in the team is loose forward, is that where you're most comfortable?
Uzair Cassiem: Loose forward no 7 is my preferred position to play because it gives me a lot of range to play. I like getting involved in the cleaning and drafting work. It makes it all better for the other players and then for the team to hopefully win. I can play all three loose trio positions but find that I am best at 7.
Coming up through the ranks you must have had quite a range of mentors and coaches, which ones are most promininent in their influence in your rugby and why?
Uzair Cassiem: Yes, each coach really had a great influence in mentoring me. I would say the most prominent ones were Irven October - he recognised me as a potential good player just after school and drafted me to play club rugby - I was actually very set on either studying or working, I never thought I was good enough.
Secondly, Deon Davids - He also saw potential in me and drafted me to the Lions. He was not only a mentor, but he assisted me also with accommodation and familiarity in Johannesburg, he is still a good mentor and friend. Jimmy Stonehouse really laid the foundation that I will not get anywhere unless I work hard, harder than the next person.
He really started moulding me and my character. Lastly, Franco Smith. Franco has been a mentor and a great influence since the day I arrived at the Cheetahs. He recognises hard work and has a lot of knowledge on how to mould me into the best player that I can be.