Academy starlet sees serendipity in new South African scholarship

Promising BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy full-back, Bruce Sorbie (19), has embarked on a five-month rugby scholarship to the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport in South Africa’s Western Cape.

The initial period of the programme will focus on his individual and position-specific development before he teams up with fellow academy players for six to eight matches against other academies and age-grade sides in South Africa.

The Stellenbosch scholarship is the second international exchange undertaken by Scottish Rugby and seeks to build on the success of the John Macphail Rugby Scholarship, which has sent young and upcoming rugby prospects to New Zealand every year for more than a decade.

Previous recipients of Macphail include a host of current Scotland internationalists, including John Barclay (2005), Kevin Bryce (2007), Grant Gilchrist (2011), Jonny Gray (2012), Finn Russell (2013) and Adam Ashe (2014), with this initiative the beginning of another new relationship designed to help to expose players to different cultures, environments, coaching methods and styles of rugby.

“I feel really privileged to be given this opportunity by the BT Sport Academy”, said Sorbie.

“It’s come at the ideal time given that I’d taken this year out to concentrate on my rugby.

“I’m really looking to kick on all aspects of my game. It’s a great environment to be in and the perfect opportunity to get better.”

Serendipity and performance parallels...

Sorbie took up the sport at Robert Gordon’s College in Aberdeen before embarking on his club career with Aberdeenshire in 2014 and moving to GHA a year later to accompany his study at Glasgow University.

He has been a member of the BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy since his time with the Shire, moving from the regional Caledonia to Glasgow set-up when he relocated to the central belt for study.

After one year, he opted to put his studies on hold to pursue a career in the sport, signing for BT Premiership side Stirling County in September.

With news of the scholarship offer coming at the perfect time, Sorbie admitted that he’s also taken inspiration another Scot to take exile in South Africa, newly-capped Scotland centre Huw Jones, who burst onto the scene in the autumn with a brace of tries against Australia.

Jones – born in Edinburgh and schooled in Somerset –  left the UK on a gap year before being taken on by the South African system, which ultimately paved the way for his recent international honours.

“It shows that there’s not just one but many different pathways out there.

“I’m kind of following the start of his [Huw Jones’] journey and working hard for the same outcome – to improve and eventually play for Scotland.”

Stephen Gemmell, Scottish Rugby’s Head of Academy and Performances Programmes, said: “This opportunity is part of Bruce’s individual development plan, with the key areas of focus driven by Academy staff in Glasgow, hosted in a nation which has consistenlty developed world-class players.

“It’s great chance for one of our young players to be exposed to another high performance environment, outwith Scotland, which will not only support his development but – through the relationships developed and the regular interaction between staff in both programmes – will also help further develop our BT Sport Academy here in Scotland.”

Stellenbosch Academy is a purpose-built facility with indoor and outdoor pitches, a performance gym, pool, classrooms, catering, medical and accommodation all on site, and is currently home to the Blitzbokke (South Africa 7s) men’s and women’s sides, as well as the Western Province Rugby Institute.