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NELSON Mandela Metropolitan University graduate Enrico Acker has proven that rugby players are blessed with brains in addition to brawn, by completing his master’s studies while playing top-league rugby.

RUGBY-FOCUSED … Former EP Kings rugby player Enrico Acker, pictured on the field and with his wife, Marni, analysed the money habits and attitudes of professional rugby players for his MCom degree. He is graduating from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University this month.

The 25-year-old, who played for the Eastern Province Kings and NMMU Madibaz while tackling his MCom degree, researched the attitudes and habits of professional rugby players towards their personal financial management. His sample group “covered the entire Wild Coast and Garden Route”, and included rugby players from the Sharks, EP Kings, NMMU Madibaz and South-Western Districts.

What he found was that the sportsmen had good intentions about setting budgets, planning for their retirements, and investing their money, but lacked the discipline to actually put this into practice.

He explained why they should. “While they are playing rugby, they earn big salaries. After rubgy, they’re not going to earn that amount again. When they stop playing at about 30, they are about seven to 10 years behind their peers [in terms of work experience] and many don’t have degrees, so they experience a massive drop in salary.”

However, Acker said their apathy towards setting firm financial goals probably had more to do with their age than their sporting professions. “I compared my results with a sample of ordinary people [non-sports players] between 17 and 30. They were very similar. It’s only from about 26 years and upward that people start to take their financial planning more seriously.”

Acker, who was born in Bloemfontein, grew up in Mossel Bay and is now working as a financial planner in Port Elizabeth, said self-discipline and a good daily routine had been key to his success.

“We used to train about three times a day, but in between, I focused on my studies. I knew that once I started working full-time, I wouldn’t have the time to focus on my studies, so I viewed it as an excellent opportunity, especially as my studies were paid for.”

What also helped was his determination that “everything you take on, you must finish”.

Acker, who also played rugby for Kovsies (University of Bloemfontein) and the Griquas in Kimberley, has since retired from professional rugby.