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Back You are here: Home Sports Rugby Kwa Zulu Natal Tyler "The Shark" Fisher
Thursday, 04 March 2010 09:42

Tyler "The Shark" Fisher

Fisher Bursting Through Golden Lions Defence Fisher Bursting Through Golden Lions Defence

On a dreary winter's evening, unseasonal rains left The ABSA Stadium looking more Derbyshire than Durban. As torrential downpours pelted the faithful, the Natal Sharks faced the prospect of an impressive Western Province outfit; far more experienced in such conditions. Butch James was away on international duty and Coach Dick Muir did what he did best: Bucking the national trend of conservative coaching by showing faith in talented youth. He plucked a Bloemfontein youngster from the Sharks youth system and the faith was repaid. Francois Steyn was born.

What Steyn had was what every coach, film director or music producer looks for: The seemingly unattainable X-factor. That eclectic mashing of ability, self-confidence, charisma and the uncanny ability for the viewing public to feel that anything could happen at any moment. KwaZulu-Natal has unearthed another such talent in Tyler Fisher.

Img_0631It's an unfortunate South African trait; the public overcome with excitement that a fresh talent brings. We recognize that the weight of expectation could prove too much for the individual. We make a concerted effort to pace our anticipation, but with time, we return to old habits. Some players thrive on the pressure and show their BMT, others falter into obscurity. In the case of Fisher, all indications point to the former.

From the age of eight, it was clear for all to see that Tyler was an extraordinary talent. Coming out of Forest View, a relatively small co-ed primary school, skeptics could be forgiven for thinking that he was simply a big fish in a small pond and would fade into anonymity when placed in comparison with talent from more established sporting powerhouses. He did not. From the age of eleven, Tyler quietly progressed through the system. From the PADSSA (Districts) to Provincial squads, he was a prospective talent that all and sundry were taking notice of. The whispers of a promising player from a community-based school turned into animated discussion of the extents of his true potential and which high school would harness raw instinct into clinical sporting execution.

The troubling extent to which high schools have attempted to lure the best young talent into their programmes over the last decade has proved too much for emotionally immature pre-teens the country over. What could so easily have turned into an overwhelming recruitment circus for a twelve year-old Tyler, was thankfully straightforward and decisive. Various schools had undoubtedly shown an interest in Fisher wearing their colours for the next five years, but genetics had given one the inside lane.

"My older brother was already at Westville Boys when I was in primary school" Tyler explains. "I remember going to watch him play. The atmosphere was just insane!" The thought of being a part of a successful dynasty also drew young Fisher to Wandsbeck Road. "They had an amazing team when I was in grade seven; one of the best I've ever seen. When they asked if I would be keen to come to Westville, it was an easy decision".

His older brother, Kayde is presently at the Sharks Academy and runs out for the Sharks under 19 squad; suggesting Tyler was blessed with genes athletically superior to most. At eighty-nine kilograms and 1,88 metres tall, he possesses a build made for rugby. To put it in perspective, the (arguably) best rugby player on the planet, Dan Carter is a mere two kilograms heavier than Fisher. The difference between the two? Tyler is still sixteen years-old. With a dedicated gym regime of four  ninety minute sessions per week, he's only going to get stronger.

This is a scary realization for opponents, as physicality has never been an issue for the reserved youngster. He broke into Westville's first team in grade ten as a fifteen year-old left-winger and impressed to the extent that he has now been given the jersey that he covets most. "I really enjoy playing outside centre. It's such a specialized position that gives me so many options. Inside centres can be like a second flyhalf and they have to pass quite a bit. Outside centre allows me to play the crash ball, look for the outside gap or play the ball out wide."

Such is the extent to which he loves the game, that he played club rugby for Pinetown Rugby Club until under 13, where he was selected for the KZN Club side. With high school, came the realization that schoolboy rugby at the next level would prove far too time consuming and physically demanding. "There is just too much on your plate. High school work is obviously more intense than primary school and there's also a difference in the intensity". He alludes to the fact that club teams often comprise of a wide scale of mixed ability. "In a club game, teams often have a few weaker players and the opposition takes advantage of this. In schoolboy rugby, everyone is basically at the same level and the gaps in defence just disappear."

The pressure placed on South African schoolboys is without peer on the international stage. Whether this results in our players developing into hardened professionals with cerebral efficiency or unexpressive robots that refuse to waver from the proverbial 'beaten path' game plan for fear of repercussions, is up for debate.

Though only in grade eleven, Fisher is a pivotal member of a school first XV that demands so much of itself. Longing for the days when they were the undisputed kings of KZN, they have been hard at work ensuring they hit the ground running. "Well Westville's pre-season starts the previous year. At the beginning, it was all fitness and rugby-related, but we recently had a team-building camp of cycling and swim sessions. There was also some paintball for a little bit of fun". He's singled out the 'big three' for his personal goals for season. "Michaelhouse is our opening game and a couple of our players from last season have moved across there, so it will be an interesting game" he says with a timid smile. "(Maritzburg) College is always a big game and we haven't beaten Glenwood for a while. That would be great".

His diversion of the question of personal goals in favour of team aspirations speaks volumes for his outlook on the game. It is only once pushed, that he reveals his quest for Craven Week representation. This may seem quite bold for a grade eleven in a highly competitive province, but his rugby curriculum vitae points to its probability, rather than possibility. Having represented KwaZulu-Natal at the under 16 Grant Khomo Week, he was subsequently called up as one of fifty players from around the country to join the national under 16 High Performance Squad in Cape Town. "It was an amazing experience. We stayed at SACS for a week, where they monitored and developed our skills and at the end of the week, we were divided into two teams". His next great challenge will be to up the ante and move on to the under 18 squad. A challenge he relishes with modest excitement.

With his relative youth, there was an expectation for hero-worship; the liberal praise of an international player who schoolboys tend to follow like a fashion trend. Fisher pauses and thinks deeply after being questioned of his idol. "I wouldn't say that I've tried to mould my game around anybody, but I learnt a lot from watching my older brother. I think I'm generally just instinctive. You play what is in front of you". He does however, have great admiration for ease at which Irish midfielder, Brian 'O Driscoll breaks the line.

It is clear from his poise and array of thoughtful responses that Tyler Fisher is far more than an aggressive backline 'battering ram'. Though he claims that rugby is his main passion, he expresses a mature realization that a "BCom, majoring in Marketing" would be hugely beneficial. In an age where sporting wunderkinds live with the warped observation that no 'Plan B' is necessary, Fisher has bucked the trend.

A sportsman in every sense of the world, he is far from a one trick pony. He lists swimming, waterpolo and rugby sevens as other sports of anticipation. Whilst he probably won't find himself in an Olympic pool, an Olympic medal has become increasingly likely. Blitzbokke coach Paul Treu has made it public knowledge that he keeps a watchful eye on provincial rugby at all levels, as well as the High Performance squads that Fisher has already attended. With rugby sevens joining Golf as recognized Olympic sports at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, one wouldn't be too bold to expect a twenty-two year old Fisher wearing the green and gold in Brazil.

Though he performs physical feats of a man, he still enjoys activities indicative of his age. "I enjoy going to movies now and then. Mostly comedies, but also a few action movies too. Music-wise, I'm big into dance, with certain types of rock too sometimes". Studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between the characteristics of an athlete's base performance and the particular music they listen to before competition. If experts were to analyze Tyler Fisher, they would point to intensity and controlled aggression that is found in both his HiFi and the field of pay. Light-hearted, but relishing the physical collision of the game.

The quintessential inquiry that every high school senior faces is where they see themselves in five years. "I work at it year by year. To get where I would like to be, I realize that I've got to achieve things step by step. I've got to work my way through the ranks. So I'll take every challenge when I face it". Though he has never been plagued by any major injury, Fisher realizes the nature of the game means that it could all be over in a moment. For the sake of rugby enthusiasts the world over, let's hope we have the pleasure of seeing Tyler Fisher grace the hallowed fields of the game for many years to come.

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