SEBASTIAN Laumann Thøgersen is on a road less travelled, but he knows exactly where he wants it to lead – to a professional rugby contract.
The reason his journey is different to most who crave a career in the oval ball game is that his has spanned no less than six countries and as a Dane, there isn’t exactly a rich history in the sport to draw inspiration from.
However, the talented 20-year-old backrow forward, who joined Strabane Rugby Club at the start of this season, has already amassed plenty of experience in the sport, which he first played in Dubai at the age of 10.
Due to his father’s work, Sebastian and his family have moved around a lot, living in the United Arab Emirate, England, South Africa, Czech Republic and America.
“I picked rugby up in Dubai when I moved there – I played for a school and fell in love with it and I want to do it full-time. I would love to be a professional rugby player, which is what I’ve been working on since I was 14,” confirmed Thøgersen, who particularly enjoys the physical aspect of the sport.
“I just love everything about it. It’s a tough game, you have to always be better, you have to be tough, you run hard, it’s a contact sport.
“And as a 6, 7 or 8, you have to be the workhorse of the team, going from one side to the other, tackle, carry, you are just a one man army!”
While his first introduction to the sport happened in Dubai, followed by a stint with his home-town club, Holstebro Vikings, his development and love of the game occurred in South Africa and England, with time spent in the academy of Super Rugby’s Sharks, in Durban, and at the Woodhouse Grove School near Leeds, which is where he first met Strabane RFC head coach, Adrian Sweeney.
During his time in South Africa, Thøgersen impressed for both the Sharks and one of their feeder clubs, Durban Collegians.
After representing Denmark at the U18 XVs European Championships in 2016 and 2017 he signed a three-year agreement with Sharks Rugby.
In his first season there, 2017, he helped the Collegians to victory in their regional tournament and he was named player of the year for the under-18s. Sebastian was also one of seven players from the Collegians to be selected on the regional team, the Duikers, who travelled to Pretoria for an inter-regional tournament featuring the best young rugby players in all of South Africa, and he was named the best forward in the competition.
Unfortunately, his visa expired at the end of his second season and his time at the Sharks ended.
However, it was a case of when one door closes another one opens for the man the South African’s nicknamed ‘The Viking’.
Having been impressed by Sebastian’s qualities with and without the ball, Sweeney was quick to get in contact with his former pupil after his departure from Durban.
After talking to his former teacher and coach, he, along with compatriot Anders Mindstrup Hagelin, who has since returned to Denmark due to other commitments, decided to make Ireland their next port of call and join Strabane Rugby Club.
“I was in the position that I didn’t know what I was doing but I didn’t want to be in Arizona, so [Adrian] said I’d be getting a lot of game time and that the standard of rugby would be pretty good,” he explained.
“Playing against people older than you has helped my game, which is the aim. I want to keep working at my game and progress.”
His performances have already caught the eye of at least one club who play at a higher level, and while Sebastian is keen to continually test himself and develop as a player, he’s thoroughly enjoying his time in Tyrone and with Strabane, although he believes they could achieve more with a little extra consistency.
“Life in Tyrone’s not too bad, it was a little bit of a culture shock – I miss the heat a little bit!,” he admitted.
“But everyone’s very friendly here, welcoming. [His team-mates] took me out and showed me around, they are a good bunch of lads.
“The rugby varies because some weeks we play very well but some weekends I think we let ourselves down. I think we can be a very good team, but when we’re not in the zone we don’t really play at 100 per cent. I think we started off very well, then it slowed down.”