- Former Springbok wing Stefan Terblanche, who featured from 1998 to 2003, shares which national coach he most enjoyed playing for and memories of the ill-fated Kamp Staaldraad.
- The ex-Sharks and Ospreys outside back assesses South Africa’s entry into the United Rugby Championship and how he expects the four franchises to fare sans their international stars.
- He also runs the rule over South Africa’s current wing options - with Cheslin Kolbe “worth every cent” - and explains what the World Cup-winner can learn from the ageless Ronaldo.
Sport24 asked: Your thoughts ahead of the United Rugby Championship?
Stefan Terblanche: I think a change of competition is good - Super Rugby needed a revamp - and it will be beneficial for South Africa’s ‘big four’ franchises to play in the northern hemisphere. However, when the competition gets underway from 24 September, it will prove difficult playing without our Springboks especially in a new competition and different environment where the northern sides will be able to use some of their top internationals. However, on the flipside it affords young South African players an opportunity to make their mark. The Bulls and Sharks - and to a lesser extent the Stormers and Lions - have good playing depth at this stage and should still be able to field formidable teams even without their Springboks. That said, in South Africa we live a little bit behind the times because we think we should easily beat the team up north. It won’t be the case. Even our better teams in the Bulls and Sharks, will find it hard going up north because there are some proper teams there - the likes of Leinster, Munster and Ulster... In the long-term, no one can say for certain in which competition the Springboks will end up but we need to use the United Rugby Championship as an opportunity to venture into new territories. At the moment, South African rugby is enjoying the best of both worlds with it up north and the Rugby Championship down south.
Sport24 asked: How do you rate South Africa’s current options at wing?
Stefan Terblanche: We are blessed with talented wings at the moment. In terms of Cheslin Kolbe, since the 2019 World Cup he has probably been the best player in the world. He has moved from Toulouse to Toulon for a significant amount of money (and a reported contract of R17.5-million a year) and he deserves every single cent he gets for what he brings to not only the Springbok team but world rugby. While footballers like Cristiano Ronaldo are paid stratospheric salaries, it’s great for rugby that times have changed as far as earning potential is concerned. In terms of the entertainment and great value Kolbe brings to the game, for me, he is worth double that figure... Breyton Paulse broke the mould and showed that you don’t have to be a massive winger to excel. He played exceptionally for South Africa across 64 Tests. The likes of Gio Aplon and Kolbe followed his lead. Pound for pound, Kolbe has without a doubt been the best player in the world for the last 18 months. He is incredibly nimble and quick on his feet and boasts agility and change of direction. Those types of players are an absolute joy to watch because every time they get the ball, even in a crowed defensive system, they find a way to get across the gain line. At the very least, they beat the first defender and once they do that it’s game on for the rest of the team. We are just so fortunate, and the beauty about South African rugby is that there are plenty of smaller players with real skill out there. Breyton was nimble and faster than me so he was the Kolbe of his day, while my play was more similar to that of Makazole Mapimpi. I was also pretty quick off the mark but bigger and more physical. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not putting myself in Mapimpi’s league at the moment. He’s playing brilliant rugby and his try-scoring record - 16 tries in 18 Test matches - speaks for itself.
Sport24 asked: Any regrets having not reached a half century for the Boks?
Stefan Terblanche: It would have been great to have reached the 50-Test milestone and at stages I felt like I was still good enough to play at Springbok level. However, it wasn’t up to me but rather the selectors. There were other times when I think I was fortunate to play for South Africa because I didn’t necessarily show the best form and play as well as I should have. I might have got selected because I had had a good previous season. Over the course of my international career, it levelled itself out but I would have loved to have played more times for my nation. Any player would love to play 50 Test matches for his country but I got the opportunity to play 37 Tests and am grateful for those. (Terblanche scored 19 tries in his 37 Test matches for South Africa). In terms of the Springbok coach I most enjoyed playing under, I would say Nick Mallett was the man. I first got to know him as a 19-year-old playing for him at the Boland and got to understand his management style. He was a really good coach but in the beginning I found it hard. He was the type of guy who would tell you exactly what you did wrong during a game in no uncertain terms but he would also advise you how to make improvements. Often coaches tell you what you do wrong but they don’t have an idea in terms of how you are going to fix it. Nick helped me mend certain weaknesses in my game which improved it overall. In the end, I really enjoyed him. He was hard but shaped me into a better player.
Sport24 asked: Your memories of Kamp Staaldraad during the Straeuli era?
Stefan Terblanche: I personally enjoy those types of tough experiences in the bush and like to push my body to the extreme. However, the timing of the camp was absolutely diabolical and we should never have gone on that trip. We were two weeks away from playing England in the Rugby World Cup and the way we broke our bodies down at the time wasn’t great at all. Scientifically it served absolutely no purpose. We had worked that whole year to get fit and strong and then to head into the bush for four days and knock ourselves down was the wrong thing to do. I know Kamp Staaldraad caught up with us from a physical and mental point of view. We lost heavily to England in the pool stage and could never recover from that defeat. We then faced the All Blacks in the quarter-final and, led by an in-form Carlos Spencer, they absolutely annihilated us in a 29-9 hiding. I now laugh about Kamp Staaldraad with some of my ex-teammates but at the time it was not funny.
Sport24 asked: Where do you stand in terms of Rassie Erasmus’ video-gate?
Stefan Terblanche: Rassie is extremely knowledgeable about the game and knows the rules. I believe there must be a greater reason why Rassie went to those extreme to expose the levels of refereeing especially when the Springboks are involved. He wasn’t thumb-sucking and, according to the letter of the law, Rassie was correct. However, the way he got his message across (even though SA Rugby maintains the video was leaked) could be called into question and that is certainly what has got World Rugby’s knickers in a knot and why they called a hearing. The Australians have obviously got a strong view on the issue because it was an Australian referee – Nic Berry – who was involved. The ARU took a strong stance and said Rassie should be punished for it. There will definitely be some form of punishment but whatever that will be for Rassie and/or SA Rugby remains to be seen. From a sanctioning perspective, I’ve got absolutely no idea what World Rugby are going to do and how they will approach it. The question is will they throw the book at Rassie and really punish him hard? There are other rugby nations who say that it was unacceptable the way he handled it but Rassie felt strongly about it. He said in the video that it was not the views of SA Rugby or the management team but rather in his personal capacity. Only time will tell how the saga unfurls.
Sport24 asked: Ronaldo is still in peak fitness. What has led to his longevity?
Stefan Terblanche: When I retired at the age of 37, I was more the exception than the norm. However, athletes today such as Ronaldo, who has signed for Manchester United on a two-year contract at the age of 36, are fitter and stronger than ever before. If you look at the pyramid when it comes to training, fitness and health: at the bottom you have sleep, nutrition and managing stress, which current players like Ronaldo do really well. When I started playing professional rugby, we spent so much time on the training field. Modern athletes are much better looked after and train smarter. I hear meditation is also something that aids Ronaldo’s holistic performance. As a player, I got into motivational meditation. Preparation is as much psychological as it is physical. I played a game over in my head thousands of times before it even happened which speaks to the power of the mind. The mind will take the body wherever it needs to go as long as you are strong enough upstairs.