Otago Student Joins Highlanders Squad For 2023

Otago Student Joins Highlanders Squad For 2023

A much better side hustle than UberEats

It’s common for students to have a side hustle alongside their study commitments. It is, however, a bit rarer for that side hustle to be playing professional rugby in one of the world’s top competitions. 

For business student James Arscott, however, playing top-level rugby has been a part of his entire uni life. Since 1st year, he’s been representing Otago in the National Provincial Championship (NPC), the top national-level rugby union competition in Aotearoa. Originally from Timaru, he joined the Otago Rugby Union’s academy while studying at Otago Boys’ High School in Year 13, before joining the squad in first year. 

Since he began playing for Timaru Celtic at the tender age of 4, James has been working his way up the rugby ladder. He told Critic Te Ārohi that he’d always had his eyes set on the peaks of rugby achievement: “I’ve always loved rugby, and I’ve always wanted to play for the Highlanders.” From next year, one of James’ goals will be ticked off when he officially joins the Highlanders squad. According to James, while the NPC is “still pretty intense,” Super Rugby Pacific presents yet another step up: the intensity of training, the pressure around games, the larger (international) following, and the fact that the players and teams he’ll be facing are among the best in the world. 

What’s it like trying to balance uni life and pro rugby? For James, it was all about having “a good balance”. Needing to stay in top condition to tough it out on the field means he has to train “pretty much every day,” and not subject his body to quite as much abuse as the average Cumberland business student. However, he insists that “it’s still important to have a social life… have a good time,” and says he still manages to make his way to different uni events. 

James says trying to maintain an adequate diet on a mainly student budget was a challenge. “You end up cooking more for nutrition, rather than enjoying it,” he said. However, this year, the additional opportunities unlocked by a pro rugby salary meant that his flat (of Highlanders teammates) could splurge on a HelloFresh box. “It’s way better, we can cook more as a flat and try new things,” he said. 

James has already been recognised by several lecturers and plenty of others on campus. According to him, however, handling the fame that rugby can bring you, however, is a lot easier when you’ve got mates to keep you grounded. “They take the piss out of me, but they’re still really understanding,” he said. It also brings a few, less expected perks, including “playing the rugby card… too many times to count” when assignments start to press up against rugby season commitments. James told Critic Te Ārohi that “It certainly makes asking to reschedule assignments easier!”

For anyone who is lucky enough to find themselves needing to juggle a professional athletic career with the demands of student life, James had a few pearls of wisdom: “Put your sport first, but whenever you have an opportunity, socialise and have a good time. You don’t get your Uni years back… and that’s what’s cool about Otago Uni, the social side. These 3-4 years will be the funnest years of your life, so make the most of it.” Critic Te Ārohi is looking forward to cheering James and the ‘Landers on from the Zoo next year, as soon as we figure out what the fuck a ruck is. 

This article first appeared in Issue 24, 2022.
Posted 1:33pm Saturday 24th September 2022 by Denzel Chung.