Pat Cilliers: From Springbok prop to 'gintrepreneur'

Pat Cilliers (Lloyd Burnard)
Pat Cilliers (Lloyd Burnard)

London - It has been over five years since Pat Cilliers left South Africa to pursue a career abroad. 

By the time he had made the move to Montpellier from the Stormers in 2014, the tighthead prop had notched six Springbok caps that came in 2012 on the back of a good run of Super Rugby form with the Lions. 

As is the case with so many South African players, though, Cilliers was eventually presented with an offer that was too good to refuse and he made the journey north. 

He played for Montpellier in France before joining the England's Leicester Tigers in 2016 and last year he joined London Irish. 

Now 32, Cilliers knows that he does not have a lot of time left in his rugby career. 

Roughly 18 months ago, he embarked on a business venture that he is devoting a lot of time and effort to as he winds down his playing days. 

Cilliers and another familiar face in South Africa, Michael Rhodes, have created their own gin recipe from scratch and their business, The Fines Master, is up and running.

Rhodes, 31, has been at Saracens since 2015 and attended Michaelhouse in KwaZulu-Natal with Cilliers. 

The two have always been incredibly close friends and, now, they are business partners. 

The Fines Master gin is sold online and in selected UK stores, and Cilliers reckons early indications are positive. 

"We're obviously sports people and we like bringing people together, training hard and then earning what you do afterwards," Cilliers said, explaining the choice of name. 

"It's all about having a good time in sport and we thought the name was appropriate for us."

Upon landing the idea to make their own gin, Cilliers and Rhodes then spent countless nights at their London flat trying to come up with the perfect recipe. 

"Mike and I had a few goes by ourselves in our kitchen, and it was decent gin and a fun process, but it wasn't quite right," Cilliers said, adding that the experimentation made for more than a few tender heads in the mornings. 

Cilliers and Rhodes then came into contact with a local distiller Shaun Edwards, who helped them add the finishing touches to their recipe and got the product on the shelves. 

"I'm at the end of my career and the thought of what happens when rugby finishes scares a lot of players. I'm trying to be more proactive and upskill myself and I'm really enjoying it. It's going nicely," said Cilliers.

"We've learnt a lot along the way and now we've honed into what we're about.

"I've always looked at myself as an entrepreneur. I probably got it from my folks, who have been through quite a few business avenues."

He may be settled in London, but Cilliers says he will always have a soft spot for South Africa.

"I do miss home. Both countries are awesome and it's what you make of it, but I'm born and bred in South Africa, my family is there and I miss it," he said.

Pat Cilliers gin company, The Fines Master.
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