MyPlayers Magazine April 2020

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Making family, relationships and rugby work








Fourteen years and counting: ‘I’m a lucky man’ PAGE 8

Q&A with Faf de Klerk PAGE 10

Spicing it up with spicy plum PAGE 11


Five things to consider in a long-distance relationship PAGE 12

Love during #lockdown PAGE 12


Eighteen Coffee PAGE 17

Bars, cars and superstars PAGE 18

Chris van Zyl on... PAGE 20

Grabbing Bulls and books by the horns PAGE 21

MyPlayers 2020 Bursary Holders PAGE 27


What you need to know PAGE 30

Trading up north – all the stats PAGE 31

THE ART OF THE INTERVIEW The ten commandments of the distinguished interviewee PAGE 34

Testicle your fans. Wait! What? PAGE 37

Muhammad Ali or Curtly Ambrose? Finding your authentic voice. PAGE 38

Post match quotes PAGE 39


Changing tracks - The transition from track & field to rugby PAGE 40



Two days in the life of MyPlayers PAGE 22








Yours in rugby Marco Botha



In journalism school, students are taught “to show and not tell”. William SmallSmith said he did reasonably well in journalism at school, so there was no need to let the contributors do a crash course in creative writing. Besides, you are the ones fighting in the Colosseum – no one has a better vantage point to show and not tell what the world of rugby is really like. A need that has become apparent, though, is for players’ own voices to be heard. When MyPlayers embarked on a player research project in 2019, published in February of this year as “VOICE 2019”, it was evident that players had much to say, but that platforms prioritising their views on certain matters were few. For this edition, we revisited some of the more emotive conversations from the research, and the following topics are consequently covered in this magazine: Relationships with life partners, families and children; Career and personal development; and Financial planning for a life after rugby. To jazz things up, we are also introducing a section called The Art of the Interview. The number of mind-numbing to boring post-match interviews by players, staff and officials far outnumber the memorable ones. If you are guilty of the former, do not despair – the three articles in this section are stimulating and packed with insights on how you can build a personal brand by being more authentic. Alyssa Conley writes about her transition from being an Olympic sprinter to a Women’s Sevens rugby player. In South Africa, we have an abundance of men’s players who are capable of, or at least dreaming of, playing at senior professional level. The women’s game has a much smaller player base. Seeing players like Alyssa take the leap might inspire other female athletes to do the same; all to the benefit of the women’s game. Then, a blast from the past. Did you know Breyton Paulse spent two years in the Springbok camp before he made his international debut? In his column, the 64-Test veteran takes us back to his roots before fast-forwarding by a couple of years to explain why he holds no grudges for having to wait so long before getting the opportunity to score a hat-trick of tries in his first outing for the Springboks. Lastly, not sure what a workday at MyPlayers HQ looks like? The middle-page spread should give you an idea of what happens behind the scenes to ensure your commercial benefits and personal well-being. It is detailed, but that is what players asked for when The Players’ Organisation was conceived, by players, in the months after rugby turned professional more than 25 years ago. A sincere word of thanks to our contributors: William Small-Smith, Duane Vermeulen, Steven Kitshoff, Faf de Klerk, Rümando Kok, Juandré Kruger, Bryan Habana, Chris van Zyl, Marco van Staden, Jano Vermaak, Dewald Potgieter, Constant Beckerling, Liam del Carme, Alyssa Conley and Breyton Paulse.


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You tell us. In this edition of MyPlayers Magazine, we decided to turn the editorial process on its head. Rather than sourcing content from professional writers, we asked players to try their hand at storytelling. Here then, dear reader, is a publication for players by players.


Will it work?










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M Y P L AY E R S | T H E R U G B Y P L AY E R S ’ O R G A N I S AT I O N



CROUCH, BIND, There have been many partnerships in rugby that will linger for a very long time in the game’s collective memory. Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha, Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie … the list goes on. Yet most rugby players are in a partnership that has a more significant influence on their wellbeing, happiness and rugby success, writes William Small-Smith.


MET MY WIFE, CHRISTIE, while we were still in high school, and I immediately knew she was everything I wanted in a spouse one day. Since I was a small boy, my dad told me, “Find yourself an athletic girl who can jog.” With this as my point of departure, I evaluated Christie accordingly, and she passed with flying colours. You could say it was love at first sight, and my love, awe and appreciation for her have known no bounds ever since. Luckily, I also met her criteria. It’s easy to be in a relationship when you’re at school – you only played rugby on Saturdays, and if the result didn’t go your way, you still had a school dance afterwards and classes on Mondays. You had a balanced life with many different focus areas and interests. But, as you get older, rugby can quickly become a 24/7 job, which introduces countless more challenges to a relationship compared with those early days.

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WHEN REALITY SETS IN I remember the day I told Christie I was going to join the Blue Bulls after school. She was not impressed! She still had one more year of school left in Bloemfontein before she planned to go to Stellenbosch. That was the start of our five-year, long-distance relationship, during which we racked up a substantial number of flights and miles between Pretoria and Cape Town. At the end of 2015, my career needed a change, and I went back to Bloemfontein to rekindle my love for the game. Christie was almost done with her final year of studies. On a beautiful Saturday evening in Jeffreys Bay, I asked her to be my wife. When she said yes (thankfully!), she could not have known what life would be like. Being married to a rugby player might sound idyllic. You get to tour together all over the world; some spouses don’t need to work; and you watch all the matches from the wives’ and girlfriends’ suite. But, with those spoils comes the reality of having to listen to what transpired at training every single day. You have to help him heal – physically and emotionally. You become the first person he speaks to after a bad game, and when he gets left out of the team, you’re the one who has to help him make sense of it all.


I try my best not to bring too much rugby home. Nevertheless, after a tough defence session, I am usually still fired up when I walk through the front door. It then takes loving hands or some personal space, and Christie always seems to know which one. SHE’S HER OWN PERSON What enables Christie to bring normality into our house – where rugby is watched too much, spoken about even more, and thought about almost constantly – is that she has a life of her own. She is a practising attorney with her own interests, motivations and challenges. The fact that rugby is not so important to her makes me realise that there is a whole world outside of rugby, and that realisation brings a calmness to a world in which we would otherwise live from Saturday to Saturday. Rugby has to be important to you as a player, but when it becomes too important, it can suffocate you. My wife brought perspective to my life, and when she starts talking about forwards hanging around in the backline, or about the intricacies of the breakdown, I know this is her way of showing her support. Another upside of her knowing a thing or two about rugby is that I don’t have to explain my perfor-

Rugby has to be important to you as a player, but when it becomes too important, it can suffocate you. My wife brought perspective to my life, and when she starts talking about forwards hanging around in the backline, or about the intricacies of the breakdown, I know this is her way of showing her support.

IT’S LOVE, NOT PRESSURE Just remember, when your wife asks about your rugby, she’s doing so to show her love. Do not let those questions put any pressure on you. They are not meant to create pressure. She does so because she cares. Living from contract to contract and packing up your whole life in an instant because of your husband’s work are some of the things your wife will do for you. Never take that for granted. Being a rugby wife is already asking a lot. Make a point of showing her your appreciation, and treat her with the love and respect she deserves. I salute all women who play such an important role in our lives. Behind the scenes, no one does more for us than our life partners. They are the ones who determine who we are and how we are able to perform on the rugby field. Those moments, which no one else gets to see, are what make us who we are. At the very least, rugby players should acknowledge these contributions – our partners’ love and support will remain long after the crowds have gone and the stadium lights have gone out after our very last game.

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mances when I get home after a match. She understands. And when I’m happy and healthy, she’s happy. Your partner is really the one who creates the atmosphere at home. Christie’s always there when I need someone to complain to. She’s there to apply ‘patch and solution’ when my body and mind need healing. She’s there to celebrate the good things in life with me.


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‘I’m a lucky man’ By Duane Vermeulen

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LAYING IN JAPAN MEANS I’m away from my family for long periods, and it’s not easy or very lekker, to be honest. But it helps knowing I have a supportive, strong wife who looks after our boys when I am away on rugby duty. Besides, it doesn’t help feeling sorry for myself. Professional sport, whether men’s or women’s, isn’t the only industry where constant travelling is a reality. I often remind myself of that. All occupations have their pros and cons. However, this doesn’t mean I don’t miss my wife and boys a lot. As a player, when the longing becomes a bit much, you just have to remember why you are away from home – you are earning a salary for doing something you love, and you owe it to everybody rooting for you to remain focussed and to do your job well. Keeping in touch with your loved ones is one way of dealing with this longing, so my family and I FaceTime as much as possible. It’s not just about seeing their faces and hearing their voices, it’s also about knowing they’re safe and for them to see where in the world I find myself (and that I’m doing well). Call it an unorthodox geography lesson for my sons! I brought my family over to Japan in December 2019, and I treasured every moment. It was a bit challenging for the boys. I live in a tiny apartment on the 11th floor of a residential building. It was the northern hemisphere winter, so they could not really run around, as boys do. That meant we had to keep them busy with board games and, looking back on it now, it was quality time spent together in a way we might not necessarily have chosen in South Africa. Happy memories! When you start your rugby career, you have certain dreams and aspirations, but you can never know what highs you’ll experience and how long your career will last. Rugby players meet their partners at different times in their lives and careers. I met my wife, Ezel, during my first year as a professional player, and neither of us would have imagined that we would still be living in a rugby world 14 years later. In that sense, I was really lucky and privileged to meet and marry someone who would be willing to go on this journey with me. It’s exciting, but it most definitely isn’t easy. I could not have asked for a better partner – she is by my side (physically and, at times, virtually) through good times and bad times, whether I am at home playing with the boys, or playing rugby on the other side of the globe. I consider myself a lucky guy.




Find someone who loves you for your budgie smuggler

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Faf de Klerk wouldn’t necessarily encourage long-distance relationships. Just kidding! But, in order to make it work, you need to find a partner willing to go on this journey with you for who you are and for whatever rugby throws your way.


MyPlayers: When you signed with Sale Sharks, you and Miné didn’t see each other for long stretches. Faf de Klerk: Yes, Miné is a pharmacist, and her work responsibilities made it difficult for her to come with me. But, she’s been with me in England since January and will stay until the end of the season. Then we will both go back to South Africa. Before this, Miné would come and visit me when time allowed. MP: How did you keep the spark alive while you were on different continents? FDK: Obviously we spoke a lot, either by phone or FaceTime. But I think the important thing for us was to speak about any and everything. Small

things, bigger stuff happening in our lives, and also stuff that bothered us. When you don’t speak often enough or openly enough, things start simmering below the surface, and when a couple allows that to happen, a relationship can turn sour very quickly. MP: Would you encourage players to enter into long-distance relationships? FDK: My best advice would be not to! No, I’m only joking. Look, it’s not easy. Call often, FaceTime when possible, talk about everything and ask questions… That is how you stay in sync with each other and how you overcome the physical distance. MP: How did having Miné in Japan during the latter stages of the World Cup enhance the experience? FDK: It was unbelievable! It meant a lot having her there with me – not just for the sake of creating shared memories, but also because she took my mind off rugby at times when I really just needed to step back and regain perspective. MP: Most importantly, does Miné approve of your budgie smuggler? FDK: Oh, she loves it! Miné appreciates a good joke, and she knows me well. Me wearing only the budgie smuggler after the World Cup final was me just being me. And Miné loves me for who I am.



SHE… THE SONG THAT SUMMER BRINGS Marrying your best friend is possibly the most important decision you will make in your life. You really need that one person who will be there for you in the good and the bad times; someone who sticks with you when you go overseas or when you’re away from home for a long time. I married my best friend. In my life, Aimee is easily my biggest supporter. She wants what’s best for me and our future.

strength and source of perspective. She was there from the day I started playing Super Rugby, and she has been my biggest motivator ever since – because of her, I just want to be a better person and player from week to week.

WINNING THE ****** WORLD CUP There was this moment shortly after the World Cup final in Japan when the enormity of it all hit home for the first time. Aimee came up to me and, in a scene that went viral, looked me in the eyes and said, “Jy het nou net die ****** Wêreldbeker gewen!” I’ll never forget that moment between us – it was a true reflection of our relationship in the sense that Aimee has, for a very long time, been my pillar of

THE NUMBER YOU’VE DIALLED IS CORRECT When I’m away from home, we make a point of staying in contact, even when there’s a big time difference or issues with sorting out foreign data packages. We have a telephone conversation at least once a day. We’ll keep a certain time during the day open for each other, so we know not to schedule something else in that time.

“Jy het nou net die ****** Wêreldbeker gewen!”

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Steven Kitshoff married his best friend. One could say it’s Aimee, not his ginger complexion, who really spices up his life on and off the field, and he would have it no other way. In his words …



Five things to consider in long-distance relationships


TRUST Remember, without trust there is no relationship. Remind yourself of the commitment you’ve made. COMMUNICATION For any relationship to stand the test of time (and distance), you need to strive towards improving the quality of your communication continuously. When you communicate, remember to be open and honest, as well as direct and clear in what you want to say. USE TECHNOLOGY WISELY Allocate dedicated time slots in your weekly planning for face-to-face chats. There are a number of options to choose from – including FaceTime, Zoom and Skype – when it comes to virtual communication. KEEP PERSPECTIVE/PRIORITISE Even though rugby is an important part of your life, there is also a world outside of rugby. Remember that family members have lives of their own. Show empathy by checking in with your partner and family to establish how they are doing in a caring and supportive manner. EXPECTATIONS Define your expectations and roles. Create clear rules regarding what is allowed and what isn’t in the context of your long-distance relationship. Schedule “dates” to see each other and plan a fun activity that you can share together. Remind yourself that physical distance is not synonymous with social distance or emotional distance.



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Love during #lockdown

How to be kind while being confined

BE FLEXIBLE. Make creative plans to have fun together, but do stuff separately too. Remember, there is no such thing as the perfect partner. Try to be “good enough” and do not be overly critical of yourself when you make mistakes. Also, keep in mind that conflict in any relationship is inevitable. The most successful relationships are not characterised by the absence of conflict, but, instead, by how well it is handled. Be mindful not to enter into a power struggle with your partner. Meaningful relationships are not so much about who is right and who is wrong, but rather about continuously showing each other the love, appreciation and respect that you both deserve. Do not underestimate the impact of small gestures like making your partner a cup of coffee, helping with household chores and preparing a meal. When you do things together, try not to become overly emotional or reactive, but strive towards remaining in control during the conversation or interaction. You’re in interaction when you communicate about something in a calm and relaxed manner and you’re open to seeing your partner’s point of view. You’re in reaction when you’re in conflict about something because you feel overwhelmed and struggle to see beyond your own perspective. When you feel strong emotions, remember to take a deep breath, calm yourself down, remain in interaction and don’t allow yourself to become reactive. The final challenge is not merely to attempt to keep the relationship going during this lockdown period, but to have the shared goal of further enhancing the quality of your relationship. This can be a period of survival or coping, but it can also be a period of growth. Your mindset will determine which one.



By Rümando Kok

Rümando Kok is a clinical psychologist at the Institute of Psychology and Wellbeing (IPW) at the Potchefstroom Campus of North-West University (NWU). He is the manager of the Confidential Helpline for MyPlayers and SA Legends.








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M Y P L AY E R S | T H E R U G B Y P L AY E R S ’ O R G A N I S AT I O N



While playing for Toulon in France, Springboks Duane Vermeulen, Bryan Habana and Juandré Kruger turned their craving for biltong into a European business. After successfully launching in France, Biltong Power has just been introduced at Loftus, the rugby home of all three players at some point. Juandré Kruger spoke to MyPlayers about Biltong Power MyPlayers: Where did the idea start? Juandré Kruger: We were at a braai (actually BBQ) in France at a Toulon team event. Since then, we’ve started a manufacturing plant and developed online distribution networks in Europe, and we’ve just launched in South Africa. MP: Loving biltong does not necessarily mean one should start a biltong business. What convinced you to take the leap? JK: As South Africans playing abroad, you miss South African products, and many of us were making our own biltong. The foreign players would always eat and enjoy it, which meant biltong wasn’t just for South African palates. But that didn’t guarantee a definite business opportunity. Duane, Bryan and I always liked the idea, but the crucial consideration was whether we could find great manufacturing and online distribution partners. Once we found them, it made all the difference between understanding the market and actually being able to serve that market. So, having an idea is not the same thing as having a business – you have to be able to create a business structure that supports the idea. MP: What was the biggest challenge in setting up a business while all three of you were playing for Toulon? JK: The biggest challenge is always time. Luckily, we have great synergy, and everyone brings something different to the table. From CRM, media exposure and building the brand, we continuously worked hard to introduce the product into our initial market, and now a few different countries are showing interest in our brand. Juggling playing and setting up the business was tough, but with the necessary drive and focus, it’s completely possible. MP: What do the three of you bring to the table? JK: Marketing and business development are

our main responsibilities. All three of us are brand ambassadors. In the beginning, our main priorities and responsibilities were to our employers, ie to play rugby, and later for Bryan to work on commercial contracts. As players, it was easier to operate as brand ambassadors as well – we could use our profiles to give Biltong Power brand exposure. I remained in France for a year longer than Bryan and Duane and was therefore more involved in the management and administrative set-up of the business. MP: When you started the business, all three of you were senior players. Did the idea of starting a business come about spontaneously, or did you do so with the aim of creating business opportunities for a life after rugby? JK: Actually, this business came about spontaneously, and it has now grown into a recognisable international biltong brand. MP: You briefly mentioned having business partners. Do you source your biltong from a third party, or do you do your own manufacturing? JK: Our partners are all in Europe. They’re fullon manufacturing plants and in the meat-trade industry which makes it easier. So, in short, we produce our own biltong with the support of European partners. MP: Bryan recently completed his business studies at Toulouse Business School. Even before you played abroad for the first time, you already had formal business qualifications. What are they, and are you currently following any other academic or professional pursuits? JK: After school, I graduated with a BCom Management Accounting degree from Stellenbosch University. I then did Investment Analysis and Portfolio Management through Unisa, and I am currently studying towards an MSc Business Development degree from Toulouse Business School. The interesting thing about studying

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CAREER PLANNING AND PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT while you are still playing is that you continuously gain new and stimulating knowledge. In Bryan’s and my case it was around business management. That really made it easier to set up our own business. We had all these ideas and practical knowledge mauling in our heads. MP: In your mind, how important is it for players to start working towards a career for life after rugby even when they are still playing? JK: Career planning is of the utmost importance, and it makes it easier to make decisions about your future if you have studied towards a relevant qualification that enables you to settle on good and informed choices. If rugby does not work out, you then have a strong plan B to rely on. It also creates balance in your life, and as rugby players, we often neglect the pursuit of balance and perspective. That said, we also have to realise that very, very few players get the opportunity to play rugby as a career, and you have to work very hard to stay in this profession. I am definitely not dismissing the importance of career planning when I say you should never let business or anything else sidetrack your preparation as a rugby player. Discipline and focus are key features to success in people’s lives.

BRYAN HABANA ON... ... life after rugby Like most players, I was worried about life after rugby (I still am). As fortunate as I have been with the various opportunities that I have been presented with, nearing the end of my career, and since retiring, I am extremely wary of taking my current situation for granted. Even though I am in no way where I would like to be, I am working extremely hard to get there, and I am constantly trying to upskill myself as much as possible. I am also very grateful that I got back into the books at the end of my career to get a qualification behind my name. ... advice to his 23-year-old self Being able to show my 23-year-old self my current position would hopefully make him proud, but the Bryan Habana of 2020 would also love to give him loads of advice as well. Most importantly, to continue taking a holistic approach to his career but to make better and wiser financial decisions and educate himself as much as possible around finances so as not to wholly put his trust in all the sharks that would present themselves to him over the course of his career.

In 2019, three legends of the Springbok Sevens game, Philip Snyman, Cecil Afrika and Kyle Brown, launched their own coffee label and roastery (situated in Dorp Street, Stellenbosch). The name Eighteen Coffee was derived from their then combined jersey numbers for the Blitzboks (Cecil 10, Kyle 6 and Philip 2). Coffee has always been a passion for them but “the graduation from passion (and idea) to product happened a lot quicker than they anticipated”. During a flight, Philip met a man whose son, named Matt, roasts coffee. Philip gave Matt a call; he threw a few blends together, and they nailed the desired aromas in just over a month. A friend offered to design a label, and in next to no time they had coffee in a bag and a business to run. In the words of Jan Spies: “Proe dit mos nou pure plaas!”

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Eighteen Coffee


Financial planning for your future doesn’t mean waiting for that big break and contract. It’s a discipline you have to commit to the day you leave school, writes Springbok scrum half Jano Vermaak.


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HEN I PLAYED FOR the Valke at the 2003 Craven Week in Wellington, I knew I wanted to be a professional rugby player, and since my plan was not to go the university route, I had to have a solid financial plan for my future.

How to manage your finances well


SET TARGETS Before signing my first contract, I had a target in mind for how much money I wanted to have saved up by the end of my career. I then set myself a five-year and a 10-year target that would serve as checkpoints towards my ultimate 15year goal. To achieve those targets, I started putting away a percentage of income each month into an account that gave me interest growth. My objective was to build a property portfolio over time, since there will always be a demand for real estate. To achieve the goal of buying my first property, I had to save for a deposit. Easy enough. But, money doesn’t save itself. My approach to finances has always been conservative, and I would recommend this to other players, especially those only entering the industry now. Don’t waste your money on a fancy lifestyle – what I like to call “Bars, Cars, and Superstars”. You won’t play rugby forever, but this industry gives you the platform to build a stable future if you manage your finances well during your career. On average, rugby players earn much more per month than their friends and peers working in other industries.


end at any moment, and that is why you should not wait for that “big break” before you start managing your finances and future well – you have to start in year one. GOALS ACHIEVED Thanks to good financial decisions, I achieved my goals for years five, 10 and 15. Besides my savings, I’m earning an income from my property portfolio, and I haven’t been solely dependent on my rugby income for a while – rugby became a vehicle to secure my future for life after rugby. SAGE ADVICE As mentioned, I have been playing professional rugby for 16 years, and for only two of those years it was for an overseas club. The game served me beautifully. I played for the Boks, I won the Currie Cup, played Super Rugby, and I made friends for life. Obviously, there were disappointments and injuries along the way, but my conservative approach to finances meant I never put unnecessary pressure on myself due to financial concerns.

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CHECKING IN As planned, I bought my first property after five years. I achieved what I wanted to. Still working towards that number I had in mind for the end of my career, the following five years meant building on the first. And for me that meant playing rugby in France for two years – I left for no reason other than to work towards that ultimate savings goal at the end of my career. I never planned to stay in France indefinitely, and I knew what I wanted to achieve financially during my time abroad. While in France, I still put away money every month to grow my property portfolio. Playing for Toulouse supported my overall plan, and I was still enjoying my rugby. I played professional rugby for 16 years, and while this might sound like an eternity to some, I always knew my playing days would not last forever. (I’m still a youthful 35 years old with my entire life ahead of me!) During my playing years, I never wanted to be in a position where I experienced financial pressure. Your career can


I don’t want to sound like an oupa preaching from a position of seniority, but I do want to suggest players, especially the younger ones (the average age of Super Rugby players in South Africa is just 24 years), consider the following: ›› Have a career plan and set financial goals at the beginning of your career. ›› When you invest your money, make sure you understand the process and industry. ›› Do not give your money to someone else to invest on your behalf. Know where your money is at all times. ›› If you do not have the knowledge or confidence to achieve your financial goals on your own, ask someone you trust and whom you know has the knowledge to help you, but never transfer the responsibility to them. Financial management also means educating yourself about the investments you want to make.



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CHRIS VAN ZYL (CA) ON... Being a professional rugby player and qualifying as a chartered accountant (CA) at the same time: It was definitely challenging, but my big advantage was that I was a late developer and got into professional rugby when my tertiary education was basically finished. But, I still did my two board exams while playing professional rugby and working. The two key things were that Deloitte was unbelievable. They allowed me to play. And, also, the coaches I had were very supportive. If I came across a coach who didn’t think it was a good idea, things might have been different. But Johan Ackermann and then John Dobson were both good to me. My articles took me four-and-a-half years (they usually take three). And, I did three and a half of them while working and playing. It would not have been sustainable for much longer, but I knew there was a finite period and an end goal in sight. I just had to push through and get it done. Long hours! Combining education and professional rugby in a typical South African weekly rugby schedule: It’s definitely possible to combine rugby and education. I did a course through MyPlayers in 2018, and I’m signing up for another one soon. The former wasn’t too strenuous, but it required about 10 hours a week. It just means your Sundays are shorter. It’s also possible to do some sort of job shadowing, and do it effectively. There is more than enough time.



BY THE HORNS MADE MY CURRIE CUP debut for the Blue Bulls in the final year of my BA (Sports Science) degree. I really had no excuse not to pursue a tertiary education. I had a study bursary from the Tuks academy, and while I played most of my rugby for Tuks, I did so with the support of the Blue Bulls as well. It was not always easy. At the Bulls, we usually started training early in the mornings, and late afternoons would allow me time to rest up. Then, from 18:00 until 22:00, I would study. I started with my honours degree in the year I made my Super Rugby and Springbok debut, which made it more challenging. I still have one semester to complete. But, as a junior player, you have more than enough time to balance your rugby and academic responsibilities. What keeps me motivated is knowing that my rugby career can end within a split second, and any young player who thinks he is only going to play rugby and not pursue further education or professional development, needs to wake up. As a junior player you have more than enough time to study. Some of my lecturers were not overly supportive of me missing classes or arriving late, but others were. So, I pushed through. My coaches at the Bulls also supported me when I had to miss training because of a test or important lecture. It would have been easy to just give it up and hope for the best in rugby, but I am glad I didn’t. You have to keep the back door or a plan B open should you find it hard to transition from junior to senior rugby immediately. I have seen too many players who underestimate how difficult that transition is, more so for gifted players who almost expect to arrive and thrive in the senior game. When I retire from rugby, I want to farm. But, rugby doesn’t always offer players the luxury of making that decision on their own terms and in their own time. This is a dangerous sport. So, if my career were to end today because of an injury, and I couldn’t immediately make the change to agriculture that I’d hoped to make, at least I’ve got a degree that offers me the opportunity to work in rugby – I can add more value to the game than by just playing it.

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By Marco van Staden




THE LIFE OF Ever wondered what MyPlayers does besides managing your player benefits and commercial rights? Here, we present two typical days at our HQ in Plattekloof, Cape Town. During lockdown, you can just insert “Google Hangouts” or “Zoom meeting” next to most items. The show must go on!


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08:00 SARLA meeting to discuss better cooperation between current and ex players 09:00 Players Choice planning session for 2020 event 10:00 11:00 Review internal agreements for finalisation 12:00 SAREO meeting: Finalise changes to Collective Agreement / joint goals for 2020 13:00 14:00 15:00 16:00 Discussions with agents and players about managing rights in commercial transactions 17:00 Various discussions with players re 2019 commercial payments 18:00 19:00

08:00 Internal meetings re financial services, labour issues, disciplinary hearings, commercial payments and legal issues 09:00 Contact IRP and World Rugby re presentations on player affairs at upcoming conference 10:00 11:00 Meet with potential benefit partners 12:00 Consider new licencing proposals from third parties 13:00 14:00 Discuss strategy re COVID-19 with Pro14, SANZAAR and IRP 15:00 16:00 17:00 Conversations with members of media re Six Nations and Voice report 18:00 19:00



DAY 1 08:00 Trawl Internet re updates on COVID-19 pertaining to impact on industy; prioritise emails and respond 09:00 Telecon re intellectual property rights of players 10:00 Internal meeting re the PDM programme 11:00 Attend to internal contracts library [governance & compliance portfolio] 12:00 13:00 14:00 Attend to BBBEE certification process 15:00 16:00 Telecon re licencing opportunity 17:00 Consider emails, prioritise, respond 18:00 19:00


08:00 Trawl Internet re updates on COVID-19 pertaining to impact on industy; prioritise emails and respond 09:00 COVID-19 task team telecon 10:00 Manage emails; return phone calls 11:00 Internal meeting re compliance and governance 12:00 Prepare for MyPlayers board meeting; re-evaluate risk register 13:00 Consider emails, prioritise, respond 14:00 Implement actions flowing from day’s internal meetings 15:00 Prepare for upcoming MyPlayers board meeting 16:00 17:00 18:00 19:00


DAY 1 08:00 Manage emails; return and make outstanding telephone calls 09:00 Status check-in with EH: Responsibilities and planning feedback 10:00 Planning of MyNumbers functionality for MyPlayers App 11:00 Develop reports to assist the Contracting Model Committee with salary-data analysis 12:00 Check-in meeting: Senior Financial Manager Welmarie van der Spuy 13:00 Meet with Momentum’s insurance & pension fund administration team (discuss current offering)


14:00 15:00 Meet with Momentum: new death cover product, communication & implementation planning 16:00 Manage emails; return and make outstanding telephone calls 17:00 18:00 19:00

08:00 Injury claim administration; request documents and submission 09:00 Injury claim administration; request documents and submission 10:00 Injury claim administration: database management 11:00 Send and return emails 12:00 Check-in meeting with Senior Financial Manager 13:00 Schedule preparations for premium collection of pension fund and communication with unions 14:00 Schedule preparations for premium collection of pension fund and communication with unions 15:00 Schedule preparations for premium collection of pension fund and communication with unions 16:00 Resolve supplier payment queries 17:00 18:00 19:00

DAY 2 08:00 Manage emails; return and make outstanding telephone calls 09:00 Prepare and send 2020 insurance cover review quotation documents (claims reports, salary data, policies, etc.) 10:00 Check-in meeting: MyPlayers Financial Service supervision meeting Isma-Eel Dollie 11:00 Develop research questionnaire on international insurance standards for rugby players (to be communicated with IRP) 12:00 Meet with Brightrock on the 2020 insurance cover review quotation 13:00 Assist SARU & SanlamACA telephonically with the requirements regarding Springbok Sevens players not loaded for medical aid & GAP cover 14:00 Manage emails; Return and make outstanding telephone calls 15:00 MyPlayers App meeting with developers (Liquid Edge): MyNumber requirements, Marco Botha + Word Press 16:00 Manage emails; return and make outstanding telephone calls 17:00 18:00 19:00


DAY 1 08:00 Injury claim administration; request documents and submission 09:00 Injury claim administration; request documents and submission 10:00 Injury claim administration: database management 11:00 Injury claim administration: database management 12:00 Weekly bookkeeping on accounting system for the group 13:00 Weekly bookkeeping on accounting system for the group 14:00 Weekly bookkeeping on accounting system for the group 15:00 File requisitions and invoices 16:00 Send and return emails 17:00


DAY 1 08:00 Send career assessment links to players 09:00 PDMs check in - planning junior players 10:00 Send WhatsApps to WP & SA 7s re personal brand session 11:00 Confirm 1-on-1s with WP & SA 7s 12:00 Material development (junior group) - Selfies, sexts & smartphones 13:00 Material development (junior group)- Selfies, sexts & smartphones 14:00 CRM development on app (Liquid Edge) 15:00 Respond to player queries (CVs, 1-on-1s, internships, etc.) 16:00 Share material to be used in next sessions with PDMs 17:00 Arrange National Development Plan meeting 18:00 19:00

DAY 2 08:00 09:00 10:00 11:00 12:00 13:00 14:00 15:00 16:00

Write career reports Write career reports Meeting with possible internship host One-on-one session One-on-one session One-on-one session One-on-one session Write reports on one-on-one sessions World Players Association committee meeting about international measurement tool 17:00 Respond to player queries 18:00 19:00


DAY 1 08:00 Pension fund enquiries management, statement, options and communications 09:00 Process pension withdrawal forms for players 10:00 Upload membership forms (SARPA & CCR) 11:00 Recon database with pension fund lists 12:00 Arrange team visits around the country 13:00 Assist players with MyPlayers App - Login & Registration 14:00 Update benefit membership lists 15:00 Commercial payments administration - Bank information, Profile updated 16:00 Appearances and missing games - track and record, liaise with Union PR/Marketing 17:00 Communicate with Reps 18:00 19:00

DAY 2 08:00 Pension fund enquiries management, statement, options and communications 09:00 Process pension withdrawal forms for players 10:00 Arrange Max mouth guard impressions at various unions 11:00 Arrange legal representation for player cited (red/ yellow card) 12:00 Dial into hearing 13:00 Received call for a player doping; arrange telecon with player 14:00 Promote and explain benefit partner deals and manage logistics 15:00 Arrange and manage all charity fund handovers 16:00 Injury insurance: communicate & assist insurer with player’s underwriting requirements / feedback 17:00 18:00 19:00

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08:00 Receive emails on the IRP survey on the application of the scrumming process 09:00 Prepare and send report to IRP on the survey 10:00 Status meeting with Eugene 11:00 Respond to telephone inquiry on an agent matter; provide advice & feedback to the player / parent 12:00 Review Addendum to the Collective Agreement and provide comments 13:00 Follow up on outstanding Springbok Remuneration Agreement 14:00 Phone and advise a player on contractual terms and benefits 15:00 Send draft of the 2020 Olympics to SARU 16:00 Make two inquiry calls on the TAS (Total Annual Spend) 17:00 Receive new / respond to previous players inquiries 18:00 19:00

08:00 Check performance of previous day’s communications 09:00 Plan social media posts 10:00 Social media posts 11:00 Discuss (Eugene) feedback to journalist on media inquiry 12:00 Respond to journalist 13:00 Send notification to Leopards on scheduled union visit 14:00 Draft mailer to all players on Pension Fund top-up 15:00 Check mailer with David and Eugene (send to group) 16:00 Receive request from IRP to send survey to Women’s player group 17:00 18:00 19:00

08:00 09:00 10:00 11:00 12:00 13:00 14:00 15:00 16:00 17:00 18:00 19:00


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08:00 Follow up on latest update on the signing of Springboks Remuneration Agreement 09:00 Update the CBA Matrix 10:00 Meeting on nomination discussion for SARPA Representative on MyPlayers Board 11:00 Status meetings (Hilana / Isma-Eel) 12:00 Communicate (via email) draft of the Tokyo Olympics Remuneration Agreement 13:00 Communicate/plan meetings in PE (Southern Kings) 14:00 Planning, TAS Monitoring Meeting 15:00 Players Development CRM design meeting 16:00 Planning, Special Meeting (SARPA Exco) 17:00 Receive new / respond to previous players inquiries 18:00 19:00

DAY 2 08:00 Check performance of previous day’s communications 09:00 Plan social media posts 10:00 Discuss content for monthly mailer with Eugene 11:00 Write content for monthly newsletter 12:00 Get quote from designers for monthly newsletter 13:00 Plan content for April MyPlayers’ Magazine / Check with Eugene 14:00 Respond to social media | Respond to IRP re survey 15:00 Send internal communications to union CEOs (update list) 16:00 App development meeting | Update App and platforms 17:00 18:00 19:00

Capture leave on payroll system Capture payslips on Payroll system Capture payslips on Payroll system Authorise Payroll file Prepare and submit statutory reports on E-filing Prepare and submit statutory reports on E-filing Weekly TAS reporting meeting

DAY 2 08:00 Answer queries from app re missing appearances/games 09:00 Load appearances & games on app from lists received from union 10:00 Load appearances & games on app from lists received from union 11:00 Load weekly payments on internet banking 12:00 Review monthly accounts 13:00 Prepare monthly management reports 14:00 Prepare monthly management reports 15:00 16:00 17:00 18:00 19:00

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CHAMPIONS! As a professional rugby player, you’re an expert on the game. With over 160 years’ experience, we’re experts on moving you to your new home. Locally or internationally, Stuttaford Van Lines manages every detail – leaving you free to do your job, while we do ours.

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BURSARY HOLDERS This year, 21 South African rugby players will further their education with the support of the MyPlayers Bursary Programme. The following players submitted the strongest applications:

















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For career guidance at no cost, contact your Player Development Manager, Hilana Claassens, on 071 470 4901 or email CLICK TO EMAIL HILANA


We compare the cost of living in Cape Town to London, Tokyo and Paris


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M Y P L AY E R S | T H E R U G B Y P L AY E R S ’ O R G A N I S AT I O N

Jano Vermaak has played professional rugby for 16 years; two of those in France. For him, this relatively short stint in Europe made a significant contribution to his long-term strategy of using rugby to set himself up financially for a life after retirement (read more about this on page 18). He offers advice on living abroad as well as important financial considerations before signing that deal to earn euros, pounds or yen. ›› Make sure you understand the tax laws and their implications before you sign up to play club rugby abroad. You and your agent should do this together. Before I went to France, I knew exactly how much tax I would have to pay, and I included that sum in my monthly budget. ›› Once you understand these foreign taxes, you have to study the country or city’s cost of living. What will your expenses be? Tax, transport, rent, etc.

most players, your budget should include saving a percentage of your salary for the day you return home or retire. My goal was to make money overseas, and this experience definitely improved my financial position in the end. ›› Having a support network overseas is important. Do not underestimate how tough it might be to adapt to a new culture. Make new friends and check in with old ones.

›› I was able to maintain the same standard of living I had in South Africa, but it’s very easy to spend more money than necessary in a foreign country.

›› If you are going to a non-English speaking country, find someone who can help you with the local language, and make the effort to learn to understand and speak that language.

›› Draw up a budget as soon as you have enough financial information at your disposal. Since playing overseas is a financial consideration for

›› Embrace the country’s culture. It helps you settle in, it endears you to your club and its fans, and it enriches you as a person.


TRADING UP NORTH Expatistan is a cost-of-living calculator. Its statistics below reveal the differences in cost of living (COL) when comparing Cape Town to London, Tokyo and Paris. For the majority of South African players plying their trade abroad, these three cities represent the most popular markets.

Cost of living in London, UK, compared to Cape Town

+110.6% Cost of living in Tokyo, Japan, compared to Cape Town

+95.5% Cost of living in Paris, France, compared to Cape Town

* To maintain a lifestyle in London similar to that in Cape Town (earning R1 million p.a.), a South African player would have to earn R2 320 000 in the UK (£125 238 p.a.).

CAPE TOWN, SA TOKYO, JAPAN DIFFERENCE Food 100 197 +97% Housing 100 228 +128% Clothes 100 84 -16% Transportation 100 239 +139% Personal care 100 181 +81% Entertainment 100 202 +102% COMPLETE COL 100 211 +110.6% ** ** To maintain a lifestyle in Tokyo similar to that in Cape Town (earning R1 million p.a.), a South African player would have to earn R2 106 000 in Japan (¥16 733 602 p.a.).

CAPE TOWN, SA PARIS, FRANCE DIFFERENCE Food 100 206 +106% Housing 100 218 +118% Clothes 100 130 +30% Transportation 100 196 +96% Personal care 100 150 +50% Entertainment 100 150 +50% COMPLETE COL 100 197 +96.5% *** *** To maintain a lifestyle in Paris similar to that in Cape Town (earning R1 million p.a.), a South African player would have to earn R1 965 000 in France (€123 807 p.a.).

M Y P L AY E R S | T H E R U G B Y P L AY E R S ’ O R G A N I S AT I O N


CAPE TOWN, SA LONDON, UK DIFFERENCE Food 100 179 +79% Housing 100 253 +153% Clothes 100 120 +20% Transportation 100 302 +202% Personal care 100 172 +72% Entertainment 100 210 +110% COMPLETE COL 100 232 +132% *








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M Y P L AY E R S | T H E R U G B Y P L AY E R S ’ O R G A N I S AT I O N







OR THE AVERAGE PROFESSIONAL PLAYER, media interviews land somewhere between a necessary evil, an obligatory exertion of time, effort and sanity as demanded by an employment agreement, or a harmless institution, stimulating about as much imagination as conversations with really small or really old humans. During your tenure as a pro athlete, you will probably experience both. However, know that these experiences are at least partially attributable to the persona you’ve established; whether over the course of your media life cycle, or in that discrete moment when you’re standing rather uninterestedly opposite the media man with the questionable amount of powder on his cheeks (possibly make-up, probably doughnuts). But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here follows what I would describe as The Ten Commandments of the Distinguished Interviewee.


TRY TO MAKE AT LEAST ONE PERSON ON THE OPPOSITE END OF YOUR WORDS HAPPY Or, if you’re just a pretty face, flaunt those dimples to the girl in row DD … especially if you’ve just conceded seven tries on your home turf. You can’t change what happened, and you’re probably really poor at letting yourself off the hook. Or, perhaps, you’re more than happy to throw your mediocre midfielders in front of the bus. It’s much harder to say something unremarkable or detrimental when you’re trying to enrich someone else’s day, even when all you want to do is funnel a cup of cyanide.

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Former Springbok flanker Dewald Potgieter unpacks the golden rules of pulling off the perfect interview … well, almost perfect.




BE TOUGH ON YOUR JUDGEMENTS, NOT JUST YOUR OUTCOMES Suggesting that you didn’t score enough points isn’t profound; rather, own the fact that you kicked away 95% of your possession (unless you’re playing against Wales, in which case you’re entitled to claim your mastery of strategy). You know when you got it wrong, both individually and as part of the collective, and some accountability is always refreshing. Try not to get anyone fired though.


SCIENCE IS YOUR FRIEND Did you know that you haven’t scored a try in the last 20 minutes of the first half all season? Thinking and talking about the game as a series of patterns and quantifiable objectives won’t just make you more interesting to listen to, you’ll probably be a better player for it. It’s not easy though; even presidents struggle with the notion.


AMMUNITION IS ONLY NICE WHEN IT’S ON YOUR SIDE Yes, the referee was about as useful as rush-hour load shedding, but don’t be tempted. Similarly, if at any point in time the opposition can print a picture of your face and use it as the sole element of their pre-game motivation routine, you’re probably coming across a bit too strong. Rugby is a game for gentlemen; leave scandal and theatrics to Binnelanders.

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HAVE A CONTINGENCY Let’s be honest, there is nothing worse than coming across as incapable of answering a question. It’s always a good idea rather to have a preloaded answer, regardless of the question. “How do I feel about my team’s performance in the


mauls? Well, there were many aspects of the game that stood out. I’m happy we managed to exit our half with relative ease.” If you’re lucky, it will make some semblance of sense.


BE A CHEERLEADER But no backflips; your contract insurance is probably inadequate. It’s always a good idea to identify remarkable performances or exciting prospects within your ranks. When you become a senior player, you start to understand that you have the power to influence someone’s career or create some excitement that causes a youngster to be noticed. It’s not just the newspapers that can make a Springbok. After all, you’re the real pro. Everyone else just recycles Nick Mallett quotes.


IF YOU’RE FUNNY, BE FUNNY Everyone loves a charming and witty speaker. Lord knows, Nick “The Honey Badger” Cummins didn’t become The Bachelor Australia based on his looks, but he’d probably beat everyone to the punchline.


IT MIGHT AS WELL BE A BUSINESS INTERVIEW It’s always good to make better decisions in the present for the sake of future gains. Giving a better than mediocre interview boils down to internal motivation, and it says a lot about you as a professional. Who knows, if you make it big enough, some of those hooligans in the corporate boxes might become part of your network. This is an asset – one you will have to rely on when you suffer your third and final ACL injury.


WHATEVER YOU DO, BE AUTHENTIC Steve Hofmeyr might get away with lipsyncing his bit, but make sure you give the fans a true reflection of yourself. They might have fake blue balls hanging from the back of their Datsuns, but they’re often the first ones to know when you’re struggling for consistency. This can happen to anyone on the field, but it shouldn’t happen off it.


ENJOY ALL OF IT Honestly, it’s not often that 50 000 people will sit and listen to what you have to say; and to many of them, their perspective of you isn’t trivial. Being a sportsman is not just about the race to buy your first BMW, it’s also about being comfortable with the word “Hero”. Try to live up to it.


WHAT? Wits University 1st XV captain Constant Beckerling’s approach to interviews is both refreshing and … well … ballsy. Here’s more from the man whose passion for rugby is matched by wit and plenty of heart.


EHIND EVERY PLAYER is a boy who fell in love with the game. Someone who picked up a rugby ball and never wanted to put it down. Countless hours of passing, kicking and touch rugby! Shouts of “not inside the house!” punctuating days when the sun went down too early and you weren’t done playing yet.

“We live for this moment.” How often have you heard this phrase and really thought about it? As players, we structure our lives around rugby. When rugby becomes professional, we lose that childlike sense of wonder. We forget why we never wanted to put down our balls (yes, I am getting away with this one). In many ways, we have never stopped playing, but the reality is that millions of young boys have done exactly that. All of those rugby fans still just love the game. Like you did when you were a young boy. They don’t understand systems, preseasons, modern defence or tactics. They just love rugby because it’s fun. So do the countless young boys who regard us as their role models and so do the hordes of wives, girlfriends and sisters who have to suffer our rugby addictions. Therein lies the crux of the matter. As players, when we get the opportunity to speak in a postmatch interview, we are the ones selling the game to the public. They want to relate to us! They want to know why we love the game! Why was it a difficult match? What was a great moment? How much does it mean to us? Did we have fun out there? Did we do something special? Never forget that. The interviews are not for coaches. They’re not for players. They’re for the fans. And every single one of them just wants to know why we never stopped picking up our rugby ball.

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By Liam del Carme

Muhammad Ali or Curtly Ambrose? Finding your authentic voice Why is it, some of my grizzled media colleagues and I have wondered, are South Africa’s rugby players so increasingly disconnected from the people who report on what they do for a living? To be fair, since the advent of professionalism, players and media have gradually been herded by the game’s gatekeepers into the most sterile environments: the press conference and mixed zone. It is the home of the cliché. “We can’t get ahead of ourselves. We take it one game at a time.” “The team that wants it more and plays the full 80 will win.” “We need to step up to the plate.” “We must just stay in the system and follow the process.” And so on. Worse still are the Inboxes bulging with media and press releases. They serve as another tool to alienate those who entertain or make decisions from those who are supposed to provide context. It means the copy is often devoid of substance and/or authority. All too often, though, players are more willing to engage when the spotlight has started to fade and they have drifted from the general public consciousness. Former players now engage in interviews that feel more like conversations. They even call back. Generally speaking, sportsmen in individual sports are far more engaging. They understand the value of self-promotion when the cameras and the recorders are rolling. No one else is going to do it for them. When it comes to interviews with former players, you don’t need an hour to extract material for a meaty article. Desperate to get to the driving range to knock rust off his trawler door-like swing, six-time Major winner Lee Trevino once noted he only had five minutes for our interview. When he sat down his eyes lit up as he listened with empathy before answering with the enthusiasm of a hyperactive rascal. I was able to write 1 400 words on the back of my five-minute exchange with the genial golfer.


Interviews with former top-ranked tennis players Mats Wilander and Guillermo Vilas underlined the notion that players who have life experience and have seen it all are more likely to share generously. That, however, is no guarantee. Trying to get an audience with Ernie Els after he has just shot the highest round of the day at the Gary Player Country Club has its perils. In team sports, the dynamics are, of course, a lot different. These days one-on-one interviews tend to be conducted over the telephone, which almost immediately denies the writer the opportunity to reflect on what the player is wearing, his body language or, indeed, if he has a certain devotion for skinny lattes. It is also worth pointing out that rugby players don’t have to be like Muhammad Ali, probably the sporting world’s most adept self-publicist, who had confidence and charisma, and talent to match. But they don’t need to be like the taciturn former West Indies fast-bowling great Curtly Ambrose either. Ambrose was notoriously media shy and often reporters had to ask those close to him for the lowdown. On a West Indies tour of England, one British journalist sought clarification on a nugget of news related to Ambrose and asked team manager and former captain Clive Lloyd about it. Ambrose, who overheard, interjected. “You want to know something, you ask Curtly.” “OK,” said the journalist before putting his question to Ambrose. “Curtly talks to no one ‘mon,” came the curt response. Simply put, in interviews rugby players just have to be themselves, while also giving more of themselves.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Liam del Carme has worked for newspapers such as the Cape Argus, the Sunday Independent, ThisDay, Beeld and the Sunday Times. In 2019, he authored the book Winging It – On Tour With the Boks (see cover and spoil yourself).

NICK “THE HONEY BADGER” CUMMINS “Sweatin’ like a gypsy with a mortgage, actually.”

“Yeah mate, I bloody was like a rat up a drainpipe in one of them runs there.”



JUST 110%

“I just saw the line, pinned me ears back and ended up bagging a bit of meat in the corner there, which was tops!”

“My old man woke me up in the morning. He was going off like a bag of cats.”

“He’s a pretty quick rooster alright. You don’t show him the sideline that’s for sure.”

“Couldn’t understand a word he said, he meant well … I know that.”

“When you come into this sort of game you’ve got to show the patience of the Dalai Lama initially in order to get that gig, and when it comes round, be ready to strike. Tonight, unfortunately, wasn’t the night for us.”


“We knew we were here to make history. I’m so proud of the boys. Absolutely humbled. The guys came out and played with enormous testicles! It was a fantastic effort. I’m such a happy captain.”

“[My hero?] I have to say Schalk Burger. Absolute hard man. Tough as nails. And a big brain to boot. Humble guy. What a fighter!”

“Want to say thank you to the Pukke. Dankie, boys. Harde game gewees. Altyd ’n voorreg om hier te kom speel. Ons waardeer julle passie. Ons waardeer julle effort. Maar op die dag wou ons dit net meer gehad het as julle. We want to make a point in this competition. We believe in ourselves. This is not a once-off. This is not a freakish aberration. We want to go and show the world what we’re about.”

DAN KASENDE “Listen. This is my captain right here [Constant Beckerling]. I wouldn’t be at Wits playing the way I play if it wasn’t for this man. Yesterday, we came together as a team. And this man cried in front of all of us and asked that we just serve Wits and everyone that supports us.”

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“Sometimes you just have to go back to why you play the game. For the love of it, the friends, the brotherhoods. We’ve got a lot of friends and family who support us and love us. Just because this isn’t a great season, it doesn’t mean this isn’t a great team. And, we showed it here today. We love Wits, we love the Blues, and we’re just building on this.”


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I was an Olympic sprinter. My dreams and aspirations never included team sports. Then an unexpected offer changed all of that, explains Alyssa Conley.

LEAVING THE COMFORT ZONE My biggest challenge, still, is to break through my fitness threshold, because with 7s, it’s not about how fast you run, but how fast you can run repeatedly. While I was drafted for my speed, the transition to rugby proved to be a marathon. One benefit of being a rugby novice, though, is that no time needs to be spent eliminating bad habits from previous years of play. But that doesn’t make the challenge of learning all the rules, learning how to

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ID YOU KNOW THAT MICHAEL JORDAN, arguably the greatest basketball star of all time, was also a phenomenal baseball player? This fact inspired me to swap my track spikes for rugby boots. After the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament, the women’s team coach, Paul Delport, and his then conditioning coach, Tim Qumbu, decided that the team didn’t have enough speed. So, they approached me and asked if I would be interested in trying out 7s rugby. My initial response was “Are you nuts?” I had never played a team sport before, nor touched a rugby ball in my life. I would not possibly be able to play for the Springbok women’s team. After much thought, I decided to take up the challenge and joined the Springboks women’s 7s training camp on 25 March 2019, not knowing I would be a contracted player nine months later. In tier-one rugby nations, you don’t often see athletes making this kind of transition in the men’s game. But, in non-traditional rugby countries, like the USA, changing track from one sports code to rugby is not uncommon, and while it was, literally, a completely new ball game for me, other athletes have shown that it’s possible if you apply yourself.



“My goal is to be an advocate for women in sport, proving that if you work hard and believe in yourself, you can achieve anything.”

change direction, then suddenly stop and, perhaps most gruelling, learning to take big hits, any less challenging. This is a challenge I have taken upon myself, and I hate giving up. If ever you want to break limits and barriers, then get out of your comfort zone. This is exactly what I am doing. I had been involved in individual sport for more than 21 years, and it was time to get out of my comfort zone. WHAT MOTIVATES ME? My goal is to be an advocate for women in sport, proving that if you work hard and believe in yourself, you can achieve anything. The transition has been going well. Despite the challenges, injuries and Olympic dream disappointments, I believe I have been improving daily. The team has played an integral role in the progress I have made; the girls have welcomed me into the team and helped me grasp the skills and rules of the game.

I have learnt the true definition of perseverance through this transition because you’re not only tested physically and mentally, but also emotionally. With four to five sessions daily, it’s not easy having to constantly give 100% in every session but, as a team, we support, motivate and help each. My goal is to inspire young girls to break barriers, play sport and believe in themselves. Anything is possible, and the only person that can stop you, is YOU!

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EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED You need to be able to adjust to situations; not everything in life can be controlled, so focus on the elements you can control and everything else will fall into place. TRUST THE PROCESS The results you want might not be immediate, but never give up. You never know how close you are to the breakthrough you’re working towards. Keep going! BELIEVE IN YOURSELF What the mouth speaks, the mind believes and the body achieves. Always speak success. REWARD YOURSELF Focus on the progress that you make and reward yourself for your hard work. ENJOY THE PROCESS Always make sure that you’re happy and having fun in your daily job. If not, find a new job!


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Greatness is a choice. Choose wisely.

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Two years. That’s how long I spent in the Springbok camp before Nick Mallett handed me my international debut. Most players will, at some point, have a coach who doesn’t select them. Looking back on it, those two years taught me grit and perseverance, and it made me a better player. By Breyton Paulse

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ROWING UP ON A FARM in the Koue Bokkeveld, I never aspired to play professional rugby. But, as I grew older, especially after arriving at university, the dream gradually took hold of me. Jean de Villiers had a more typical career path to the green and gold than I did, but even he had to work really hard to establish himself as South Africa’s premium midfielder. Remember, when he arrived at Western Province, he had to compete against De Wet Barry, Marius Joubert, Wayne Julies, Gus Theron and Robbie Fleck – all Springboks. He was offered the opportunity to sign with one of the smaller unions, where he would have been the first choice, but decided against it. He had a dream and he had enough patience to wait for it. My story was very different, yet in many respects the same. I grew up on Charl du Toit’s farm, De Keur, a short drive from Ceres. My mother, Setta, worked for the family, while I attended De Keur Primary before matriculating from Skurweberg Secondary School. Our sports fields had more pebbles than blades of grass, and we generally did not receive consideration when provincial rugby trials took place. Still, I loved sports, and I spent most of my time training. If not at school,


then with Mr Du Toit’s daughter, Katrientjie, or I played touch rugby with klein Charl in front of the farm’s administrative building. My love for sport and the support my mother and I received from the Du Toits kept me out of harm’s way. In the September of my matric year, Mr Du Toit summoned me to his office. As was the case for most kids growing up in the area, you expect to go into farm labour after completing school. On that day, I was expecting Mr Du Toit to promote me to tractor driver for the following year. But, he sat me down and said he had seen my school grades. They were good enough for me to go to university, and he offered to pay my varsity fees at Stellenbosch. This was a huge moment in my life. I was really nervous when I arrived in Stellenbosch. I didn’t want to disappoint my mother or the Du Toits; so, I spent a lot of time with my psychology textbooks. In my first year, I played rugby for the Goldfields student residence, best known for its soccer team. We played in the residence’s third rugby league, and I remember us losing something like 5-60 against Simonsberg, with me scoring Goldfields’ only try. Someone I would grow to love and appreciate very much in the coming

younger than you and whom you never competed against at school. Or, perhaps, someone who never even dreamt of playing for the Boks, like me or Makazole Mapimpi, but for whom the dream started flickering on the horizon just as we started getting the opportunities we never thought would come our way. I might have been a “late bloomer” in terms of opportunities, but my late yet strong entry into competitive rugby did not guarantee me anything. A coach like Nick Mallett expected more from me than consistently good Super Rugby performances – he wanted to see how badly I really wanted to be there, even if it meant holding tackle bags and working through the disappointment of not being included in his match-day sides for two years. I eventually made my debut against Italy in Port Elizabeth in 1999. I waited so long for that opportunity and heaped additional pressure on myself as well. I had to show that I belong at the international level, scoring three tries on my way to redemption. When I retired from international rugby, I had played 64 Tests and 10 uncapped Springbok matches for South Africa. Was I frustrated and angry in the long time leading up to my debut? Of course! Am I disappointed that I had to wait so long? Never! I believe grit and perseverance made me a better rugby player, and that served me well in an international career that spanned nine seasons.

Playing for the Springboks is not a right. It’s an honour worth waiting and fighting for.

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years and who attended this third-league fixture was Oom Chummy Jankielson, a Maties selector. Out of nowhere, I started playing fly half for the Junior Vics, the Maties Under-19A rugby team. Then the opportunity came to play for Maties 1st XV. Keep in mind that to me Stellenbosch felt like one of the world’s major cities when I first arrived from the Ceres district. The move from the dusty and sometimes muddy fields of De Keur and Skurweberg to the rugby sanctuary that is the Danie Craven Stadium was huge, but strangely, not unsettling. It felt as if I belonged there, living a life I never dreamt of, growing in confidence and self-belief because of people like Charl du Toit, Chummy Jankielson and my mother, Setta Paulse. That is where the rugby dream started. Let me fast forward a few years. I became the top try scorer in Super Rugby for consecutive years when I was first drafted into the Springbok mix. I considered myself to be at the top of my game, I consistently disproved the notion that I was too small to play big rugby. I established myself in a very strong Stormers side, and I believed my performances warranted my inclusion in the Springbok team. What ended up happening was me holding tackle bags for two years straight. I was frustrated and, at times, angry with the Bok coach. I had to learn that no one “deserves” to play for the Springboks – you either do or you don’t, but you don’t get to make that selection decision. It is done on your behalf. You might think you deserve to be there, but all the while there is someone else working towards that same jersey – someone who might be much





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