Ceylonese Rugby & Football Club captain Shane Sammandapperuma is not among the biggest of front row forwards and he also might not scare you if you bump into him. But this guy can make you sit up and take notice if he happens to talk about rugby. This writer met him at the Longden Place Club recently and this is one little recollection from an interview done with him which would serve as a warning to all clubs. “As much as 90% of the club’s ruggerites do higher studies and play rugby. This is why the players in our squad are smart,” said Shane.
The prop forward who has had many seasons for CR&FC sees the Red Shirts as a team which can survive a crisis. When he joined the club for his first season in 2012, there was an exodus of players. “That year the club was led by Lasintha de Costa. He being an astute leader kept the players together. I learned a vital lesson from him which is not to give up on anything that you do in life,” he said. The CR&FC captain also underscored the support offered to players by officials and members and termed this contribution as vital in making them a force in the domestic rugby scene.
As most kids do in cricket crazy Sri Lanka, Shane too tried his luck at cricket and made it to the First XI team at Wesley College Colombo. He managed both rugby and cricket at schools. However, when he was chosen to represent Sri Lanka at the Asian Junior Rugby Championship he bid adieu to cricket.
Shane is naturally motivated in what he does. He set his sight on qualifying as a chef in the hospitality trade after leaving school. But he paid a heavy price to achieve this goal. He had to layoff rugby for two years when working and studying in an hotel. The final two years of his four-year course in hospitality really taxed him both mentally and physically. There were days when he was in the gym by 6am. Then he would have lectures from 8 am to 1pm. He would be back at the club for practices at 4pm and then return to work around 7 pm and work till 12 midnight. “God gives me motivation,” said Shane who added that he never misses daily prayers as a Christian.
As a schoolboy, he never missed a rugby match which featured CR&FC. “Some of my heroes were Dhanushka Botheju, Dushanth Lewke, Kasun de Silva and Anuja Perera. And I had the honour of playing alongside them in later years,” reminisced Shane. When it came to choosing a club to continue rugby, CR&FC wasn’t a hard choice to make. “At CR it is not only rugby. There is entertainment. The club members share our own goals and they also offer financial support for studies. CR&FC offers a total package,” he said.
He sees the present CR&FC team having a blend of youth and experience. Shane admitted that the start to the season was tough, but said that the Red Shirts hope to win the league. “Our forwards are strong and we have practiced together. The only little setback was seeing most of the three quarters being released to attend under 19 national pool training. But now everyone is together and we have hope. There are 12 more games to go,” said the optimistic 27-year-old.
Another feature in this CR&FC side is that his brother Kokila also plays alongside him in the front row. They have common interests in rugby and also share the thought of going abroad for work once they hang up their boots.
He believes rugby in Sri Lanka is growing in stature. “More players are taking to the game. Rugby has given me confidence and recognition. It gives us a good feeling because people know us whereever we go,” he said.