In an exclusive interview, former Sharks captain WAYNE FYVIE talks about the impact Sean Everitt has had at the Durban franchise, his admiration for the iconic Siya Kolisi and serving Demi Moore peri-peri chicken.
Sport24 asked: How would you assess the South African coastal teams so far?
Wayne Fyvie: The Stormers were flying high prior to their defeat against the Blues. Super Rugby is the type of competition which you have to be up for every week, otherwise you will be stunned. Without a doubt there was a level of complacency ahead of facing the Blues, having come off four consecutive victories. The wonderful aspect of sport is that when you feel like you are on top of it you can be brought back down to earth. If you are 5 percent down and your opponent is 5 percent up, that is all it takes. The Sharks, meanwhile, are now top of the South African conference and I’m excited by what I have seen from Sean Everitt’s charges. However, I still feel they are yet to reach their full potential. I hate to say it but I don’t think they have played that well yet and there is a lot left in the tank. If and when the Sharks click, they could prove very dangerous... Everitt has made a difference with his coaching and man-management. The Sharks players look like they are having fun and there is a good vibe within the camp. For me, the exciting part of this Sharks team is their outside backs. If you make a mistake they will punish you. The Sharks are replicating a team such as the Crusaders, who boast outside backs with incredible agility and speed… I’m looking forward to the Sharks-Stormers clash in Durban on Saturday. I’m backing the home side to win by five points, and extend their lead in the South African conference, because I reckon they are the more balanced side.
Sport24 asked: How would you compare Everitt to Robert du Preez senior?
Wayne Fyvie: In terms of the two coaches in question, obviously right now it looks positive for Everitt and not so positive for Du Preez. I personally feel that the latter made a few blunders during his time as Sharks coach and calling the Durban press “a bunch of cockroaches” was one of them. I don’t think you want to fight with the guys with pen in hand. From past experience as a player, I think you have got to be quite careful how you come across in the media. Media outlets, at large, are chasing a headline that is going to create some interest. As a leader, you have to be very careful with your words. Calling someone a cockroach is not the most ideal thing but people often make mistakes and Du Preez would surely have learned from that situation. As far Everitt is concerned, one of the reasons he is doing well is because he has worked with many of the younger players and plenty of planning has gone into building the future generation. Working with the age-group teams and getting good structures in place has served the Sharks well. When you look at any successful team, more often than not the coach has worked with youngsters before and they have come through… For me, I think we should take the colour debate off the table. I believe it shouldn’t even be brought up anymore. The other day someone said to me that they believed sport could change politics and the way things happen. The players of colour at the Sharks have done a good job but, for me, that’s just a natural consequence as more talented players are going to come through the ranks.
Sport24 asked: What is your assessment of the Springbok leadership group?
Wayne Fyvie: I have been blown away by the humility of Rassie Erasmus and Siya Kolisi in spite of what they have achieved. I think the Springboks’ World Cup success was underpinned by the brutal honesty they had among themselves. In terms of leadership, often the less said the better but there are times when you have to be straight up with your fellow players. Sometimes that brutal honesty is not pleasant to hear but I suppose there is a time and a place for everything… I have been very impressed with the way in which Kolisi has conducted himself off-field. He is very aware of the past, the future and the present. He has certainly got my backing in terms of what he has done. There were a lot of sceptics out there who questioned whether Kolisi was good enough to play for the Springboks but a big high five to him because he has certainly proved plenty of people wrong. His value is clearly based on leadership and playing potential. He is a player who is fully deserving of everything he gets and let’s hope that there is a lot more to come from him. I would like to think that there are parallels in terms of our leadership but he is a World Cup-winning captain and I’m not.
Sport24 asked: How would you reflect on your three-Test Springbok career?
Wayne Fyvie: To have been a part of the Springbok environment is something that I will carry with me forever. Like every young rugby player in South Africa, my dream was to play for the Springboks. I feel as though I achieved all the goals I set myself in the game. I wanted to play for and captain the Springboks, which I did with the mid-week side. Maybe if my goal was to play 50 Tests for South Africa or become a great Springbok, I would have achieved that too. I would have loved to have been a part of that but a few bad knee injuries didn’t help me as well as one or two bad decisions in the process. But did I deserve to play for the Springboks? I think so. I earned my stripes on merit. However, as everyone knows playing for the Springboks isn’t a right, it’s a privilege and I was very fortune to have done it… I will never forget my Test debut against the All Blacks in Pretoria in 1996. I played half the match and recall running onto the field and getting a high five from Joost van der Westhuizen, who told me I deserved to be there. I actually played at No.8 for most of that match. The game of rugby is about small margins and we lost that Test because we didn’t take our chances.
Sport24 asked: How has flank play evolved since you hung up your boots?
Wayne Fyvie: In terms of loose forward play, I don’t think too much has changed since I called time on my playing career but the players today are a lot stronger physically and the defensive patterns are far tighter. That being said, fundamentally the game hasn’t changed too much albeit players are bigger and faster… I’m a firm believer that an openside flanker still plays a big role in today’s game. I make particular reference to openside flanks and the importance of that role. The Springboks won the World Cup without an out-and-out fetcher but the Sharks are doing well with two out-and-out openside flankers, who are the gel between the backs and forwards... In terms of the breakdown, how we police it is a good question. For me, refereeing is an interpretation of a particular situation and sometimes the man in the middle is going to get it right and other times get it wrong. Teams that possess the ability to adapt to how the tackle area is refereed and don’t get too caught up in the rah-rah went it goes wrong are the ones that are set to succeed. In terms of the breakdown, teams are playing on the edge of the rules and if they can get away with it then I say: “Good luck to you!”
Sport24 asked: How do SA sides break New Zealand’s Super Rugby stranglehold?
Wayne Fyvie: The Crusaders, who are chasing their fourth consecutive Super Rugby title, possess an incredible culture and their success is based on what they have developed in terms of why they do what they do. New Zealand have had excellent succession planning and it something we can look towards within South African rugby. For me, the Crusaders will without a doubt be a force again this season and will be there at the end of the season. Can the Sharks or Stormers beat them? If we play them at home in a final, I would say absolutely but if we play them away I think we will struggle. The home or away final scenario is a significant factor... 10 years is a long time since a South African franchise won Super Rugby. The Lions came close, losing in two finals to the Crusaders, who can be down by 20 points and still come back and win the match, which speaks to their champion mindset.
Sport24 asked: Three dream dinner guests, who would you invite over and why?
Wayne Fyvie: Sports-wise I would love to have dinner with Roger Federer. He is an athlete who has proven himself time and again and broken all kinds of records. I was fortunate enough to attend the Match for Africa in Cape Town last month. It was a great event for our country and a proud South African moment. From a political point of view, US president Donald Trump would be an interesting guest to have dinner with. In terms of the acting world, although my wife wouldn’t be happy, I would invite Demi Moore from the film industry. I would serve my guests peri-peri chicken and in terms of the soundtrack for the evening I would defer to my wife, who has the most amazing playlist. However, if it was up to me to pick some favourites I would opt for Depeche Mode and Elton John.