Captain Courageous: The Journey So Far PT 2

Captain Courageous: The Journey So Far PT 2

1996 was not a good year for Western Province Rugby. We were playing our first Super 12 season and in the process of rebuilding our team. Alan Zondagh was our coach at the time, who gave me and many of the other under 21 players a golden opportunity to come through the system. All we needed was game time and experience, and the only way to get that was by playing matches at the highest level.

The more established players in the team felt a bit threatened by the “changing of the guard” that was about to take place. The physical and mental challenges from senior players was met with fierce aggression, and diplomatic acceptance of the hierarchy on the field. My leadership experience in previous years counted for virtually nothing, but I made sure that my intention was clear: to become the future WP senior captain.

We had a decent season, but we did not do well in Super Rugby. My first season in Super Rugby was slightly tainted by a stomping incident in New Zealand where I got my first yellow card and a two-week ban. It was my first brush with senior rugby and my aggression got the better of me. I will never forget that tour as we played four games in a two-week period. Two Wednesday games and two Saturday games in Australia and New Zealand. Regrettably, we did not win any of them.

For the youngsters it was about getting back to our best as a team in order to make our province proud. For the senior players it was about carrying the pride and passion from the previous years’ World Cup victory. Personally, it was a great year as I had just started out and I was earning a “massive” R10 000 a month salary. What a privilege to be able to play a game that you love and get paid for it.

My motto was: “Be grateful, be humble and learn every day”. That year my “wife to be” left for England for a year so that was the only downside to a positive year.

Sadly, Alan Zondagh got fired as most coaches do, and I was quite deflated because we had a great relationship, and I enjoyed his leadership style. Harry Viljoen was appointed as the new coach. He brought a vastly different dimension to the game. As a highly successful businessman, he implemented all the principles of business into the team environment.

It worked like a charm. We started the 1997 season by winning the Night series. The team went on to win the Currie Cup which was the Holy Grail of South African Rugby. I had an incredible season which was topped off by my inclusion into Nick Mallet’s Springbok Team to tour Europe in December 1997. Sadly, I tore my ACL ligament in the Currie Cup final and I missed what turned out to be a highly successful tour where the team remained unbeaten.

This was my first massive injury, and it came at a very crucial stage in my career. There was only one thing on my mind: to get back on the field in record time and to wear the Green and Gold once more…

In case you missed part 1, have a read here


  • Noel
    21/03/2021 01:38 3Likes

    My hero. At the risk of an over-used cliche, Captain, my Captain…..
    When you stopped playing rugby, I stopped watching all domestic games which is sad really as the only other sport that interests me is motor sport. Local rugby became so predictable and boring that I lost interest. I still watch Uk and European games from time to time. I wish you could come back and show these youngsters what’s important and not to be blinded by the paycheck

  • Essefelefe
    06/05/2021 16:19 0Likes

    It is very valuable piece

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