It’s hard not to notice new Melbourne Rebels recruit Gideon Koegelenberg when you’re in his presence.
While he may be quietly spoken and have a casual demeanour, the South African stands at a whopping 199cm and weighs in at a powerful 118kg, making the 25-year-old the perfect size for the Rebels vacant lock position.
Those in the know of South African rugby may be familiar with Koegelenberg’s name.
Hailing from Brackenfell, Cape Town, Koegelenberg enjoyed a stellar junior pathway, which included Currie Cup selection for the Sharks at only 17-years-of-age, before progressing through to the Vodacom Cup, alongside selection in the South Africa Schoolboys side.
It was where Koegelenberg made his reputation as a hulking second rower, something which the lock still prides himself in being as he enters his first season with the Rebels.
“I’d say I pride myself in my physicality,” Koegelenberg said.
“I’m a strong tackler, good in defence, good on rucks, lineouts and mauls, the physical stuff is my cup of tea.
“I try to be as fit as possible to get around the pitch and to dominate every collision that I can.”
All of Koegelenberg’s traits have made him a desirable lock, which has even taken the forward to overseas leagues.
After spending one more year in South Africa playing U21’s, but this time with Johannesburg side the Lions, Koegelenberg ventured abroad to play with Pro 14 side Zebre.
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After 25 matches and two years at Zebre, a move back to South Africa called, where Koegelenberg returned to the Sharks for a crack at Super Rugby.
Reflecting on the differences between the two hemispherical competitions, Koegelenberg says both presented unique challenges, but there was one league which was far more frenetic than the other.
“It’s very different from Pro 14 where I’ve got more experience,” Koegelenberg said.
“I’d say Super Rugby there (in South Africa) was very fast, which was a big adaption from Northern Hemisphere to Southern Hemisphere rugby.”
Koegelenberg’s three seasons at the Sharks were full of promise, however, his time in Durban never eventuated into the consistent starting position which the 25-year-old may have hoped for.
Trying to crack into a tough Sharks forward pack, Koegelenberg managed six Super Rugby appearances and 15 Currie Cup selections.
Koegelenberg in action for the Sharks against the Sunwolves in 2018.
It’s one aspect of why Koegelenberg moved to Melbourne, given the opportunity presented to fill in a second-row spot following the departure of former Club Captain Adam Coleman.
And Koegelenberg intends to rip into his first season at the Club to ensure he puts his best foot forward for the role.
“Obviously it’s a new season with a new Club,” Koegelenberg said.
“I’d like to make my mark as the type of player I am as a No.4 lock and I want to play as much as possible and as long as possible for the season.
“I’m very much looking forward to the season, it’s going to be a challenge, but I think it’s going to be good.”
Given Koegelenberg’s previous experience in being a part of South African rugby, many fans might wonder what the biggest differences have been from transitioning from the Sharks to the Rebels.
One facet which has impressed the lock has been the Club’s professionalism surrounding its on-field program.
And Koegelenberg says while he’s a long way from South Africa, he doesn’t feel like he’s away from home.
“I’d say (the biggest difference) is a lot of the professionalism,” Koegelenberg said.
“it’s very well run, and the management is really good, especially player management.
“Our sessions are very tough, but it’s very calculated, so you wouldn’t overtrain, but you train as hard as your body could train without breaking.
“Everybody’s super nice and everybody’s been helping me with lifts and stuff, so they’ve shown me around its quite nice.
While it appears it’s been a seamless transition in moving from one continent to another, Koegelenberg has admitted there’s been some difficulties surrounding his move to Melbourne.
“I’m getting lost the whole time,” Koegelenberg said.
“But I’m getting the hang of it with the trams and public transport, it’s a lot better than back in South Africa and a lot safer.”