Former FNB UCT lock James Kilroe’s story is not that of a typical rugby player. While it was never his intention to make rugby a full time career, the sport has allowed him to follow his academic dream and make plenty of friends along the way too.
James was quite happy with playing for the Bishops 1st XV, and the fact that he never represented Western Province at Craven Week was not something that bothered him at all.
“I only played rugby because I loved the brotherhood it offered, and the physical challenge it presented. Once I finished my time at Bishops, I continued to play rugby at the University of Cape Town because I loved the philosophy of the rugby club – Be Better People – and the personality type this philosophy fosters,” explains James.
During his first year, James played for the Ikeys Young Guns (Under 20′s) and learnt to balance the three pillars of a student athlete’s life: academics, sport and social. His rugby progressed until he was selected to represent FNB UCT Ikey Tigers in the FNB Varsity Cup from 2012. This exposure lead to James being selected for the Western Province Under 21 team in 2012 until he eventually made his senior provincial debut in the Vodacom Cup in 2013.
The nail biting FNB Varsity Cup final in 2014 was a highlight for James. FNB UCT scored three converted tries in the final minutes of the match to snatch the title from FNB NWU-Pukke in Potchefstroom.
“Balancing my undergraduate studies in mechanical engineering with varsity rugby was not easy, but it was a highly rewarding challenge. Due to my personality, I have always sought to be mentally stimulated and physically challenged, which the student-athlete lifestyle has allowed me to do,” says James.
Furthermore, choosing to extend his studies by an additional year to play rugby provided him with the opportunity to study towards an M-Phil. in Space Studies at UCT, a topic that he has always been passionate about.
James believes that rugby has taught him many life lessons, such as having a process-driven rather than an outcome-based outlook on life. By far the most valuable lesson James feels he has learnt, is that there is more to life than playing rugby.
“Overall when I reflect on my life so far, I quickly realise the impact that playing rugby has had on it. Being in an environment that demands excellence on the field has helped me strive for excellence off it. Rugby has also allowed me to travel all over South Africa and experience many different cultures and I was even fortunate enough to travel to Australia where I played for the World University Barbarians against Sydney University. This opportunity lead to me playing with and befriending players from all over the world,” explains James.
James started a new chapter in his life in 2016 after he was offered a place in the M.Phil in Technology Policy programme at the Judge Business School at Cambridge University. He was playing for the Cambridge University Rugby Union Football Club at the start of 2016, when a serious injury sidelined him. Although his rugby future looks uncertain, he intends tackling all future challenges with the same philosophy he learnt while playing rugby under Kevin Foote at Bishops and UCT – Happiness before success.