Ollie explains why he smoked a cigar after shock Currie Cup win over Bulls

Ollie le Roux (Gallo Images)
Ollie le Roux (Gallo Images)

There are many images of on field happenings in Currie Cup finals that have endured over a period of many years, but there was one abiding memory from the epic 2005 domestic decider in Pretoria that didn't happen on the field of play - Ollie le Roux puffing on a cigar afterwards.

The game itself provided many thrilling memories, and no Cheetahs fan will forget Meyer Bosman catching a bouncing ball to score the try that clinched an upset 29-25 win over the Blue Bulls.

It was one of the big shock results in the history of Currie Cup finals, rivalling those in 1990 (when Natal won in Pretoria) and 1970, when Griquas pipped what was then Northern Transvaal in Kimberley.

As Le Roux, who was playing out his career in South Africa at the province where he'd started his rugby journey after nine mostly successful seasons with the Sharks, recalls it in an interview with SuperSport.com, the Cheetahs had been well beaten by the Bulls in the league phase of the competition.

The Bulls were gaining impressive momentum under the coaching of Heyneke Meyer, and it was right that they were expected to win easily.

And that explains why Le Roux afterwards did something that both provided an off-field memorable moment from that final but also sent out a message that might have been misinterpreted by the Bulls and their fans.

The burly prop puffing a cigar during the on-field celebrations was not an arrogant gesture, but a mark of respect for a formidable losing team.

"That cigar was a long story, but it was never meant to be seen as something negative towards the Bulls," says Le Roux as he looks back nearly 15 years later.

"It was a victory cigar, and you need to understand the personal circumstances that I went through in the years just prior to that. Many people thought I was finished as a rugby player as I had left the Sharks on bad terms. It felt like they thought I was finished as a player and there was a lot of emotion in me when I left them as I had been playing for the Sharks for nine years.

"When I pitched up in the Free State, Rassie Erasmus was the Cheetahs coach. He told me he had Os du Randt at loosehead and he also had Wian du Preez and a few other guys but he needed back-up. I signed on to play for the Cheetahs at one tenth of the salary I had been getting at the Sharks, but I just felt privileged to be playing again as my rugby career had pretty much stopped towards the end of my stay in Durban.

Cheetahs were a tough bunch

"It was a revelation playing for that Cheetahs team. We had guys like Jannie du Plessis, hungry youngsters. They really pushed you. I can honestly say I have never trained so hard in my life. It was a tough season for us. We only qualified for the Currie Cup playoffs by finishing as the fourth ranked team. We only beat Boland by two points and were really lucky to beat Griquas by two points. Braam van Straaten missed a kick that would have won it for Griquas from in front of the posts. I have never seen Braam miss a kick, let alone one like that.

"But winning those close games made us tough, and we had an unbelievable spirit in the team. I have always said that whenever you get into a fight with a guy who has been in a lot of fights you should never expect an easy fight. I got the impression the Bulls thought it would be easy for them that day and we would walk away and not fight back.

"We had guys in our team though who had hardened themselves through the fight for survival during the regular season. And we had Rassie as a coach. I saw so many things at last year's World Cup that Rassie may have picked up when preparing us as underdogs to beat the Bulls for the Currie Cup.

"One of his big gifts then, as appears to be the case now, was to focus the guys on the moment, and on trusting one another. And he was also meticulous in the way he prepared us and how he studied the opposition. That performance against the Bulls came through three years of watching how the Bulls did it. We learnt from them and then applied it.

"So when I smoked that cigar after the final it was appreciation for what we had done as a team, the massive achievement of winning a game we weren't expecting to win against a Bulls team that was really quite awesome at that stage. Me smoking the cigar was a sign of respect for them. I wouldn't have done it had it not felt like winning that game was such an achievement."

A decision made on morning of the game

The way Le Roux recalls it, the cigar idea came on the morning of the game when he was sitting in his hotel room feeling nervous.

"When we got to the final there was lots of emotion from what had happened in games between us and the Bulls earlier in the year, stuff that had been said in the papers by me about the Bulls and them about me. It felt like they were coming for me personally," says the former Springbok.

"Early on the Saturday my nerves are jangling. We're in Pretoria and we know we're going to be playing in front of a fanatical crowd. No one gives us a chance. I thought to myself 'What if we do beat them, how special will that moment be'. That was what spurred me to buy five cigars. I wanted to have something that would symbolise my enjoyment of the moment.

"So I phoned the hotel concierge and they were delivered. For 68 minutes of that game we were bruised and battered. It was chaos. We should never have won that game. But then came a call from referee Jonathan Kaplan, Bryan Habana was carded, and then we came to life. I remember in that moment thinking I will never have this chance again.

"And I carried that feeling into the immediate post-match celebration on the field. I told the other guys that they didn't understand what we had achieved, how special it was. None of the other guys wanted to smoke a cigar. I looked at the late photographer, Duif du Toit, and he looked at me. I still hadn't lit the cigar but I told Duif it would be a big privilege for me to be able to smoke a victory cigar. That was the emotion that went into it."

As a sign of how special that moment was for Le Roux there is just one rugby photograph hung on his wall at home, and it is of him puffing on that cigar.

"That is my only rugby photo at home and it is to commemorate what we achieved that day," he says.

READ the full story on SuperSport.com

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