The Old Diocesan Issue5 Mar2020 - Page 45



MENTORSHIP
that he didn’t think I would make
it in rugby unless I improved that
aspect of my personality. I was
taken aback – but did I listen? No.
“Throughout my time at Bishops
I had three amazing mentors,
even father figures, in Basil and
my housemasters Richard Skeeles
and Tim Hamilton-Smith. I even
had the likes of Haldane Murray
(1989W), 1st XV centre like
I wanted to be, to guide me as
a senior boy. But after school
I didn’t have anyone to look up
to who understood my situation,
to put me on the right track – and
I was prone to going off it!”
Robin finds familiarity in
Hilton’s story and reports the
growing concern that children
are compelled by parents, teachers
and professional agents to commit
to a life in sport too early in their
life. “They miss out on so many
possible experiences as young
people finding their way,” he says.
When adolescents are treated as
adults, he explains, they often
start to think they are adults
at a critical time of their brain
development. “I think this is
one reason why so many sports
stars and high-flying people fall;
why they involve themselves in
antisocial behaviour and so on.
As their brain is developing –
until their mid-20s – they are
suddenly confronted with all
this wealth and fame. They don’t
know how to cope and create
false impressions of themselves
– a phenomenon now magnified
by social media. And that is why
mentors are so important: to keep
these young adults grounded.”
Hilton’s experience reflects this:
“Most of my mentorship work is
focused on the 18-23 age group,”
he says.
Today he uses his post-school
travails as a cautionary tale for
his young charges when they come
under his guidance. “You pick up
a kid at 17, turning 18, and by 21
their salary could be anything up
to R4 million – and at 21 I certainly
wouldn’t have been able to handle
that. So you have to manage and
mentor these guys, especially
early in their career.” The advice
his clients receive comes from a
guy who understands what it’s
Siya Kolisi,
current
Frans
Malherbe,
current
Eben
Etzebeth,
current
Thomas
du Toit,
past
like to have tons of talent and
the world at his feet, but who also
understands that the difference
between playing varsity 1st XV
and Super Rugby is almost all
in the mind. A vital challenge
of his job is, in fact, identifying
those talented youngsters who
have the grit and mental capacity
to accept the advice necessary
to make it at the highest level.
“I focus on signing young players
and mentoring them – and doing
it properly so they choose to stick
around,” he says. He cites Springbok
scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies as
a good example. “Herschel is an
amazing kid, so humble, and like
a sponge – he just wants to learn
the whole time. But he needs
mentorship because he’s achieved
so much so young, like Frans
Steyn did in the past. I want to
make sure he stays grounded.”
To reach the point where
he could become a mentor,
Hilton had to undergo a personal
transformation, which turned out
to be boot camp by way of the
film industry. After years spent
travelling and working menial
Sbu Nkosi,
past
Francois Louw,
past
Herschel
Jantjies,
current
Duane
Vermeulen,
past
Steven
Kitshoff,
current
The Springboks’ 2019 Rugby World Cup-winning squad included nine players currently or previously under Hilton’s
management. “Over the years,” he says, “I’ve realised that it’s not just about talent: it’s about mental strength and
heart. A player is not born tough; everyone thinks that. A player becomes tough. The best players, like the ones who
won the World Cup, are mentally strong.”
THE OLD DIOCESAN | 43





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