Clyde Rathbone opens up: Why I chose Wallabies over Springboks

Clyde Rathbone (Getty Images)
Clyde Rathbone (Getty Images)

Former Junior Springbok and Wallabies wing Clyde Rathbone has opened up on his decision to leave South Africa for Australia.

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Rathbone was the Junior Springboks’ captain when they won the 2002 Junior World Championship with Jake White as coach.

He was poised to become a Springbok but then decided to join the Brumbies and went on to play 26 Tests for the Wallabies, before injuries forced him into early retirement.

In an exclusive interview with Sport24, the 38-year-old said it was a tough decision to leave South Africa.

"I vacillated a lot during the decision-making process. I would wake up in the morning and say to myself I’m definitely going to stay in South Africa, but by the evening I would lean towards a move to Australia. I played my junior rugby in South Africa and it had always been my dream to play for the Springboks," Rathbone said.

Rathbone's parents also emigrated to Australia and that eventually played a big role in his decision.

"I went to speak to my parents and I told them that I had received a flattering offer from the Brumbies and Australian rugby, but I think the right call is to stay in South Africa. I remember my dad saying to me: 'You can do what you want but your mother, brothers and I are moving to Australia.'

"I knew that if I stayed in South Africa and played for the Springboks, my family and I would essentially be separated for however long my rugby career lasted. We are a very close family and I didn’t like the idea of them being in Australia and me playing out my rugby career in South Africa."

The burly winger added that he was also impressed by what he saw at the Brumbies.

"The other big factor was visiting Canberra. I observed the Brumbies and compared the rugby and lifestyle setup to the one I was used to in South Africa. It was eye-opening and I really loved the culture the Brumbies had developed. It was a non-hierarchical structure to the way the team functioned and it didn't matter if you were a 20-year-old kid in the first year of your contract or a 100 Test-capped Wallaby.

"Everyone was expected to have a say in how the team played and functioned. At the time, I was coming from the Sharks where Rudolf Straeuli was one of the coaches. In South Africa it was a much more traditional, headmaster-pupil dynamic between coaches and players. It was a different scenario in Australia which was refreshing."

READ | Clyde Rathbone's full Q&A interview with Sport24

- Compiled by Sport24 staff

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