Kermit hoping to hit right note
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So taken was she with the sufblime talents of American jazz trumpeter Kermit Ruffins that a certain Mrs Erasmus decided to name her yet-to-be-born son in honour of the musician. Nineteen years later, the boy in question is set to show the world some sublime talents of his own when he takes the field for South Africa at Egypt 2009.

Kermit Erasmus is one of the Amajita's star performers, an exciting, stockily built striker with pace to burn, qualities that have earned him comparisons with England's Wayne Rooney and legendary Brazilian penalty-box predator Romario.

"It's a real honour for me," he told FIFA.com. "I've tried to model my game on Romario's. I've watched lots of videos of him and I analyse what he does in an effort to try and improve. I do have my own qualities, though, and I mustn't try and copy anyone."

After learning his trade at Rangers FC and Park United, the kid from Port Elizabeth went on to impress at SuperSport United, a club with a formidable reputation for producing gifted youngsters. And after making only a handful of first-team appearances, Kermit had already attracted a clutch of admiring suitors from Europe.

The recipient of several offers, the South African prodigy finally opted for Feyenoord of Rotterdam, the birthplace of another of his namesakes, the theologian and scholar Desiderius Erasmus, who made his mark on the world over 500 years ago with his humanist writings.

"My name led to a lot of amusing situations when I arrived," says the teenage tyro, who sees his move to the Eredivisie as the perfect springboard for his career. "Wherever I went I kept seeing my name on all these buildings, like a hospital and the university (laughs). I have strong religious beliefs and I took comfort from the fact that that little sign showed my move to Rotterdam was written. It's also made it easier for me to settle in here because the supporters loved me before they'd even met me."

I've watched lots of videos of him and I analyse what he does in an effort to try and improve. I do have my own qualities, though, and I mustn't try and copy anyone.
Kermit Erasmus on Romario.

After getting his first taste of life a major club, the exciting young prospect was loaned out at the start of the season to second-division Excelsior, the port city's other club.

"It's been a godsend really," he explains. "It's given me the chance to play regularly and gain the complete confidence of the coach. I've made a good start to the season, scoring three goals in five games. What's pleased me more than anything, though, is that even when I haven't scored I've still managed to create good chances in every game. That shows that I'm always dangerous and that's the most important thing for a striker."

Blessed with a maturity beyond his years, Kermit appears to be unruffled about the pressures of the modern game and the huge expectations that have been invested in him back home.

"I've been hearing a lot of noise about me being called up to the national team, especially with 2010 just round the corner," he says. "I try to put all that to one side and whenever my time comes I'll be ready for it. For the time being I'm a member of the U-20 team and I'll be giving my all for them."

Kermit's first chance to show what he can offer his side at Egypt 2009 comes on Sunday in the Group F opener against United Arab Emirates at the Alexandria Stadium. And as you might expect, the South African hotshot is thoroughly looking forward to the occasion. "I'm absolutely thrilled about representing my country in my first major international competition. I'm too excited to be nervous about it."

Thanks to that kind of passion, Serame Letsoaka's side have a genuine chance in Egypt. After impressing at the CAF African Youth Championships, where they were beaten 4-3 by eventual champions Ghana in a thrilling semi-final, much is expected of the flamboyant South Africans.

Yet as Kermit explains they have not travelled north with any specific objective in mind. "More than anything else we want to play good football and show the rest of the world that South Africa has a lot of talent to call on. It's important for the footballing future of our country to show that we're here and that they can count on us."