As I gaze at my ID Book and look at my year of birth, I cannot help by compare my age against rugby players of note, thinking what could have been if I maybe hit the gym a bit harder at 15, if my knees were still in good health or even and maybe most importantly, if I actually had real talent.
This used to be quite a reasonable endeavour a couple of years ago, being younger than most of the top players, putting in the hard miles at the gym and training track and being an avid member of club rugby, waiting for my day to come, sadly though, last year was my last year as a club rugby player as my wife and I decided it is time to start on that family and focus needs to be put on that and my professional career which sadly is not a Professional Rugby Player. Some dreams I guess were just not meant to come true.
A lot of people I know, played next to and against blamed the way that the Springboks get selected, you have to come from a big and famous School, play Craven Week for a big Province and some even went the route of blaming race and government for their own Provincial rugby and Springbok shortcomings.
I seem to always laugh at these points because I know 2 people personally who went a different route and became Springbok rugby players by pure dedication and of course, the dreaded talent word. Size is unfortunately not everything, luckily that is, because I am not the biggest guy out there. These “facts” that my teammates used in their defence at not being able to perform at provincial and national level are however completely untrue, here are the two living examples:
The first player I would like to mention here, is a kid who grew up in a small mining town in the Free State called Virginia, being a small town, they only had two high-schools, one for English folk and one for Afrikaanse mense, one had soccer and the other had rugby. He obviously went for the rugby and Afrikaans one, ever since primary school people in the small town were talking about this kid who plays a big and tough game. He represented the school’s first team since Gr 10 and was head hunted by numerous big schools like Grey College etc. he however decided to stay in the small school and went on to play Craven Week for the Griffons, not a big provincial team at all. He decided to take up UJ on their scholarship after school, this of course the days before Varsity Cup he went on to represent the Lions and later on the Sharks both in Currie Cup and Super Rugby, his name Jean Deysel.
You see, the second player I will mention, grew up in Bloemfontein, went to a high-school that is not a big name, and neither did he make the Free State Craven Week squad. He just went out there Saturday after Saturday giving it all for his school, this was spotted by a talent scout and he requested the player to go to UOFS as it was in those days and play for the Shimlas he impressed at the higher level and went on to represent the Cheetahs, struggling to get a place in the starting team alongside legends like his personal hero Andre Venter, Rassie Erasmus and Hendro Scholtz. He made his debut against the Pumas in Witbank on 8th man and again immediately impressed the coaching staff, his ability to carry the ball and defend made him a regular in the then Cats starting line-up, even captaining the squad. He went on to be one of the best Springbok blind-side flankers the world has ever known, even Richie McCaw complimented him and said that he is the toughest opponent he has ever played against, his name, the legendary Juan Smith.
The point I am trying to make here is, stop blaming other people and circumstances for what you can’t achieve. If you want it badly enough, work had enough and are good enough, you will get there.
I would also like to thank Juan Smith for all he has done for the Cheetahs and Springbok rugby, being forced to retire is never a good way to go, all the best for the future and I honestly hope that this will not be the end of the relationship between you and the FSRU.