It’s hard to believe new Melbourne Rebels recruit Cabous Eloff is only 19 years old.
Standing at 193cms tall and weighing 125kgs, Eloff is a man mountain who possesses a thick Afrikaans voice from growing up in Pretoria, South Africa, and facial hair that would put a lot of grown men to shame.
While Eloff is a young and raw prop at only 19-years-old, he possesses a junior pedigree which is highly regarded in South Africa.
Given his stature and physical aggression on the pitch, Eloff’s rise as a talented rugby player may not surprise many, however, it was something the young front rower may not have envisaged as he left junior school.
“I started playing rugby when I was five years old at junior level,” Eloff said.
“I didn’t take rugby very seriously throughout primary school and when I went into high school, I didn’t really like it.”
“It was when I was in grade 10, I realised I wanted to make a living out of rugby.”
Eloff then ascended through the Blue Bulls Academy system to also earn status as a member of the South Africa Schools team, a side akin to the Australian Schoolboys.
After his 2018 season was derailed after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in his debut Varsity Cup year, Eloff’s 2019 was a completely different story.
The front rower was part of the Blue Bulls’ Currie Cup winning side as a reserve tighthead, which proved to be a catalyst in Eloff receiving life-changing news from a former rugby Coach.
“Before the championship, Dave Wessels rung one of my previous coaches and asked if I would like to come to Australia,” Eloff said.
“And from there on, it just happened and here I am today.
“It’s a pretty big shift (to come to Melbourne) at a young age and I always say to myself that I have to look at the bigger picture.”
Eloff arrived in Melbourne on day one of the Club's preseason, uprooting his whole life to chase his Super Rugby dream in a foreign country.
However, an aspect Eloff has already noticed in his one and half weeks of being at the Club is the extreme professionalism which entails the Melbourne Rebels on-field program.
“They’re very professional here and one thing is they really look after the players here at the Rebels,” Eloff said.
“The intensity of the training is a bit higher and at the Rebels they stick to their program, like if it’s an hour and a half, it’s going to be an hour and a half.”
As a player on the pitch, Eloff dominates metres gained and his carrying ability is extremely impressive for such a young age.
One aspect Eloff says he feeds off is the energy his big hitting ability brings to a team, given the enjoyment the young Pretorian has in creating maximum contact with his opponents.
“I like to carry the ball and I like to make a big hit or two during a game,” he said.
“Because it brings some good energy to me and I know it brings a lot of energy to the other guys also.”
And what does Eloff think his biggest challenge will be in his first professional rugby preseason?
While some may suggest it would be matching up against world class international players and cracking into one of the most efficient forward packs in Super Rugby, Eloff believes it will be breaking through a language barrier of which he’s not used to.
“My English isn’t that great and because I’m not speaking English the whole time, the guys have been helping me out a lot,” Eloff said.
“It’s mainly Afrikaans in Pretoria, there’s a few people who speak English, but that’s mainly on the Johannesburg side which is more English (speaking) than Pretoria.
“So sometimes it’s difficult (in training) because I must ask the Coaches two or three times to hear exactly what they’re saying.”