Dewet Roos: The former wrestling champion hell-bent on delivering Souths’ maiden premiership

By Matt Findlay

Rugby union can be a cruel mistress at times, oft denying so many of the game’s longest-serving, loyalist and arguably most-deserving stars the chance to hoist a trophy and taste that rare joy of premiership success come season’s end.

Just ask Southern Districts.

Since forming three decades ago the Rebels have never had their name etched onto the Shute Shield despite looking likely so many times, falling agonisingly short in grand final appearances in 2012 and 2014 too.

Naturally, the Rebels’ greatest former stars never earned that notch on their belts and sadly, based on the current trajectory, veteran halfback DeWet Roos could end up on that list of non-title winners.

Roos, 28, has consistently been among the Shute Shield’s best during his long tenure with Southern Districts but for him and some of the Rebels’ other older statesmen that premiership window closes further with every year that passes.

That’s the way it appears from the outside at least, and bringing the trophy back to Forshaw is certainly what brings Roos and co back every year.

“I don’t know if I’d say it’s closing, that window, but that is still very much the dream, it’s what drives us,” Roos said, speaking to Rugby News about that title that’s eluded his Rebels since the club’s establishment.

“We want that premiership, that’s why we stick around and that’s why we keep playing, we’d love to help win Southern Districts’ first premiership.”

As many have before the 2019 season – the club’s 30th anniversary year – looked promising too as the Rebels downed West Harbour (34-7), Gordon (31-27) and Randwick (24-17) in the opening three rounds.

Then the bye came, which the Rebels have followed with four consecutive losses that have gone a long way to derailing their campaign.

Roos is sure his side can get back on track but he said they’re well aware that return to form needs to happen now.

That’s easier said than done considering the Rebels face the top two sides in the next fortnight, in Norths and Eastwood respectively.

They play fifth-placed Eastern Suburbs after that too, although in a competition as close as this year’s every game presents a challenge regardless of opposition.

“We haven’t made it easy for ourselves, no,” Roos said.

“But if we want to get back on track they’re pretty good games to do that in, not just to prove a point to everyone else but to prove to ourselves we can beat those top sides too.

“We’ve shown we’re capable of winning games but I guess the bye just came at the wrong time. Well, it definitely did considering we haven’t won since then.

“It’s just a few little things but I think, for one, the younger guys have learned quite quickly that in the senior grades you can’t afford to cruise around for a couple of weeks, it’s effort on effort on effort every week.

“It’s definitely been a wake-up call but we can turn it around … we’re very, very hungry to do that.”

For Roos, Southern Districts has been the one real constant in a “rollercoaster ride” since moving to Australia from his native South Africa, and focusing solely on rugby.

Incredibly, he actually moved here as a wrestling prodigy.

“Freestyle or Olympic wrestling, yeah, I was the national champion in my weight division and my age up until we moved across to Australia. I kept wrestling for a year or two after we moved here but there wasn’t enough competition and they actually banned me from doing certain types of moves because they said I was scaring people away from the sport,” Roos explained with a laugh.

“So I sort of thought maybe I shouldn’t do it and just kept on playing rugby, I was with Sylvania Bulldogs locally as a 12-year-old and with the Southern Districts rep team too and the connection with the senior club came from there.”

He’s had stints overseas, earned an Australian Barbarians call-up, spent time in the National Rugby Championship and cracked 11 Super Rugby caps with the Brumbies since then, with a couple of knee reconstructions in between as well, but has always landed back at Forshaw.

“It’s been a pretty good adventure, a rollercoaster ride in a way,” Roos said, adding a professional career isn’t something he’s still actively “pursuing”.

“There’s been a few bumps along the way but rugby’s been pretty good to me.

“I think the professional stuff will always be there in the back of my mind but I’m really happy with where I am in life now and I’m enjoying my rugby with Souths, I just love being down there, so I’m not really pursuing it anymore.

“I’d definitely consider it if the opportunity was to pop up because it does linger there in the back of your mind but it would need to be pretty substantial, you know it probably wouldn’t be worth it for a two-week, four-week or six-week opportunity.”

Souths travel to North Sydney Oval this weekend to face the second-placed Shoremen, kick-off is at 3pm, with Roos to usual place in the Rebels’ No.9 jersey.

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