Captain Courageous: The Journey So Far PT4

Captain Courageous: The Journey So Far PT4

Welcome to the latest installment of Captain Courageous. Someone once said to me: “It is one thing to become a Springbok and play a handful of tests. It is another thing be a consistent Springbok who plays many tests for his Country.”

I had no plan in giving up my goal of playing 50 tests for the Boks. I started my rehabilitation three weeks after tearing my ligaments in my left knee at a match in Dunedin, South of New Zealand. The doctors injected me so that my blood wouldn’t clot, and I was on a plane the next day.

Dunedin – Christchurch, – Sydney – Johannesburg – Cape Town. 48 hours later I arrived in Cape Town and went straight to my physio, Bruce, at his practice in Claremont. While lying on the bed, a lady walked in and said, “so this is probably the end of your career?”  After 48 hours of traveling, I was exhausted, and I politely responded with “No. It isn’t the end of my career. It is only the beginning.”. Little did she know how deep those words cut and how I used it in the moments where I was at my lowest.

Three weeks after major surgery, I went back to my physio who suggested water therapy as part of my rehabilitation. I remember swimming about 20 lengths with a float between my knees so that I could not kick. He told me to get out and as I got to the bed in his practice I fainted. When I woke up there were lots of people around me.

That was the start of 9 months of intensive rehab that made me stronger and more determined than ever before. My first mission was to get back on the field, second, to get back in the Stormers and Springbok team and lastly, to play in the World Cup of 2003. As a wiser and older man, I realize that I was so hell bent on making the next World Cup that I was prepared to take out anything or anyone who stood in my way.

In the build up to that World Cup in 2003 we had a camp called “Kamp Staaldraad”. We had ex special force policeman putting us through our paces as it was meant to be extremely tough. As the Captain and leader of the team I allowed things to happen to my teammates that I should never have allowed. It taught me an unbelievably valuable lesson in leadership. You must never want something so badly that you sacrifice your morals, integrity and/or beliefs.

The World Cup was not great as we were dumped out of the Tournament in the Quarter Finals. I decided to call it a day on my International Rugby Career and I went to play for the Northampton Saints in England. After a disastrous game at Twickenham in 2002 where we lost 53-3 to England, my appointment as a “Saint” did not go down well with the locals. I was involved in a couple of scuffles with the English players and a video came out on Sky Sports called “Kriges 5 seconds of madness”.

If you watch it on YouTube you will understand why there was an uproar. The headlines were: “If Northampton can contract Corné Krige, they might as well contract Freddie Kruger  and Osama Bin Laden in the loose trio with him.” Quote unquote!!! I did not need much motivation and I really got stuck in and played my heart out for the team.

Fans are not stupid, and they could see I was leaving everything out on the field. We had a good start to the season, but we lost 7 games in a row and our coach Alan Solomons was booted. He appointed me as the Captain which I did not agree to but still took the position. Another leadership lesson. Go with your gut feel and stick with it. You don’t have to have a title to be a leader.

As soon as Solly left I resigned as captain… My daughter Sophia was born in Northampton and three weeks after, I injured my neck badly. Her birth had given me a new perspective and I decided to retire from rugby at the age of 30. Little did I know what was lying ahead of me as a husband, father, and businessman.

Missed the first few Captain Courageous blogs? Catch up by reading more Captain Courageous blog pieces at the following link.

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