Philip van der Walt is a professional rugby player, a new dad, and studying an MBA online. How does he do it?

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Philip van der Walt is a professional rugby player, a new dad, and studying an MBA online. How does he do it?


“It’s a challenge, there’s no doubt about it – but hard work, planning and discipline makes it possible.”

Cell C Sharks flank Philip van der Walt, known for his leadership and energetic work rate on the rugby field is currently completing his Masters of Business Administration (MBA) through Milpark Business School. He is approaching his studies the same way he tackles his rugby career and family life; with passion, enthusiasm, dedication and commitment. We asked him how he juggles it all.

Why did you decide to do your MBA? 

After completing my Degree in Human Resources and Postgraduate Teaching Diploma at the University of the Free State, I looked forward to playing rugby without the stresses of studies. I enjoyed hobbies such as woodworking, playing PlayStation with friends and more family time. But as several years passed, I realised, as all rugby players do, that life after rugby was quickly approaching and it would definitely be in my best interest to further my studies even more to increase the chances of a good work opportunity after my rugby career. I have always enjoyed business, so when the opportunity arose to study an MBA with Milpark Education, I knew this was a great fit and an opportunity not to miss.

What has your experience been with the Milpark MBA so far?

Honestly, it has been a big challenge in terms of time management and the volume of work you have to cover. It’s very hard to balance family life, rugby and a course as intense as this one. But somehow I’m managing. The course itself has been very interesting so far and I really feel I have learned a lot in only one year. It is hard work, but it is worth it!

Have you enjoyed studying online?

I have! Milpark is a very responsive and supportive institution. The fact that you study is online is highly beneficial to me, because I can work anytime and anywhere, and the lectures are also live and online and don’t require me to go to a fixed venue.

What has been the biggest challenge for you?

The first year has passed and I have just tried to keep my head above water. The greatest challenges came from having to support my wife with a new born baby, the expectations of me as a rugby player, and managing my studies – all the while often being in different countries, and obviously being busy over weekends.

How do you manage to juggle it all? 

I leaned heavily on my wife Amandi who had to cope with most things by herself in order for me to be able to spend the necessary time on my studies and rugby obligations. I do believe the only way forward is to plan properly and work ahead of time so that when a quarterfinal in Christchurch and an exam happens at the same time you can manage both responsibilities. The art of proper planning and working ahead is still a work in progress, and things are still a bit chaotic. But I try my best.

What are your rugby goals for 2019? 

I am currently recovering from a quad injury I sustained in a training session for the Japanese side Canon Eagles. On my return to the field, I would like to contribute to the team as much as I can in our pursuit to win The Super Rugby competition this year.

It’s not all rugby and studies, what do you enjoy doing for fun? 

I always enjoy the opportunity to visit my parents on the farm where I grew up, in Adelaide, Eastern Cape. It is a great break away for my family and I. We enjoy hunting, water skiing and spending quality time together. There has been little free time this last year, but I also enjoy making furniture from wood that my dad has kept and prepares for me on the farm. I also enjoy swimming with my 17-month old daughter on a daily basis, and on an off weekend, visiting the Shongweni farmers market with my family.

What tips would you give a young person who is looking to succeed in life? 

I am thankful for the opportunities, talents and successes I have been blessed with, but I believe that you need to work hard for what you want in life. I also think integrity, a good work ethic, remaining humble and a positive mind-set are key characteristics to being successful.

I also believe the 'why" in what you do is very important, as it is the driving force of all your efforts.

All young people, especially rugby/sports players, should empower themselves through education. No one can take your education away from you, it opens doors for you and makes you more employable. 


14 May 2019