JIMMY RICHARDS, the new Blues Rugby captain, talks Rugby, Cambridge and Cindies.

Hughes Hall economist Jimmy Richards, 26, has just been appointed Blues Rugby captain for the 2010-11 season, following in the footsteps of former Australian international Dan Vickerman.

Jimmy, tell us a bit about yourself and your background in Rugby

JR:     I’m a proud South African, born and schooled in Cape Town. After leaving school, I took up a contract with Western Province. I’ve also spent a year playing professionally in Japan. In my time I’ve played for the Emerging Springboks (the South African second team) and a bit of Rugby Sevens to boot.

So what made you decide to come back to university? And why Cambridge in particular?

JR:     After a few years playing professionally I was pretty keen to get myself a proper degree and Cambridge seemed like an amazing place to do and a once in a lifetime opportunity to do that. I also visited Cambridge back in 2003 while I was on a Rugby tour and played a game against the then Blues side – it looked like a great set-up.

Be honest – was it the lure of Cindies that did it for you?

JR:      Not really – I’m not a big Cindies fan to be honest. I’ll go once in a while with the boys but always regret it the next day!

I suppose the big question on everyone’s lips at the moment is: how does it feel to follow in Dan Vickerman’s footsteps?

JR:     Pretty tough – have you seen how much bigger than me he is? No, I’m just kidding – it’s really not been too bad so far. Everyone in the squad is just trying to pull together and get the job done – there are no egos to speak of. Obviously I’ve got my own way of doing things and it’s bound to be different from Dan’s but so far people have understood that.

How was the atmosphere at your first team-meeting on Monday night?

JR:     Well it’s always going to be daunting when you start in a position like this, but the boys were really positive. Everyone came over to say well done and I got a few emails from the Old Boys too, which was nice.

Have you spoken to the other guys who ran for the captaincy? Is there any bad blood there?

JR:     Yes I’ve spoken to them and no, there are no hard feelings. The other candidates for the job are top players and they all spoke well at the meeting. There are probably 3 or 4 people who would certainly have made a great captain – there was even talk of Dan [Vickerman] having another pop.

Has it been hard to motivate the boys at training this term? Surely it must be a bit of a come-down to have to keep playing matches after Varsity?

JR:     I’ll be honest – Varsity is our most important fixture of the season by a long way and once it’s done and you’ve won it, it does feel like the main goal for the year has been achieved. Having said that, this term is absolutely critical in terms of building a squad for next season. We’ve got some big-name players, like Ross [Broadfoot] and Jonesy [Will Jones], leaving at the end of this year and we’re going to have to look for some guys to step up to replace them. I think the boys recognize that.

Have you captained sides in the past?

JR:    Well I captained through school and the odd Sevens side, but nothing as big as this.

You must have played with some pretty massive names though?

JR:    I’ve been lucky enough to have played under some inspirational captains – Corne Krige was great to be around at Western Province, not to mention Dan here at Cambridge. I suppose the most recognizable name is Schalk Berger [the South African flanker] though. We played a lot at schoolboy level – we’re both born in 1983, so were in the same school year.

That must have been fun for you.

JR:    Yeah, you could say that.

Was it hard to make the transition from playing against guys like Berger to university-level Rugby?

JR:    It’s really different. Obviously the training regimes and stuff are more hardcore for the professionals, but Blues Rugby is a whole different sort of pressure – your whole season stands or falls on one game.

How about the academic side of life at Cambridge – how have you found that?

JR:    It’s not easy, particularly in Michaelmas term. I end up having to miss lectures to train and also away fixtures. My supervisors are pretty sympathetic and that helps a lot. I really don’t think I handed in an awful lot of work in the week before Varsity though.

Speaking of Varsity, you had a pretty good game this year, didn’t you?

JR:    Not bad, I suppose. It was an unexpected surprise to get Man of the Match – I thought it would be Joe Wheeler!

Who else have you got lined up this season?

JR:     Well we’re playing England U20s this Thursday and we’ve got a few more games against the Armed Forces and a couple of Invitational XVs thrown in as well. Put it this way – there are going to be plenty of opportunities for me to check out the talent in the squad.

Last question – what do you see yourself doing post-Cambridge?

JR:    I’d love to play another year of professional Rugby somewhere, preferably in Europe. I’ve not travelled much in this part of the world and it’s always been something of a dream for me. After that? Wow. I guess I’ll have to find myself a job somewhere. I’m going to end up back in South Africa eventually though, ideally running my own farm.

The Blues face England U20s at Grange Road tonight. Kick-off is at 7.15pm.