There’s something about Andre Pretorius that makes you wonder what his secret is. A legend of the game undoubtedly with no signs of slowing down.
This week our guest columnist, Benedict Chanakira brings us an exclusive interview with this unstoppable stalwart of rugby.
BC: How are you doing Andre?
Andre – Hi Benedict, I am very well thanks. The Southwest of France is treating me well. Except for my tan. This winter was brutal!
BC- What has Andre been up to recently? Life after Rugby?
Andre – I signed for US Carcassonne in the southwest of France and started here July 2013. It has been quite a tough season but the team has held it together nicely the last month and the results have shown that. Whilst rugby takes up most of my time I am also trying to master the French language and for a Boertjie this can sometimes be a daunting task. You think in Afrikaans, translate in English and then have to speak in French.
BC- How did it feel winning the Rugby World Cup 2007?
Andre – Without a doubt it was my biggest accomplishment as a sportsman. It was such a privilege to be part of that team and to have won the tournament too was just amazing. I learnt a lot through all of that and I would never take that experience for granted.
BC- Jake White is back at the Sharks, tell us about him from your Springbok experiences.
Andre – He is one of the best coaches in the world in my opinion. Jake knows how to work with the players and with individuals. He knew I needed to be outside of my comfort zone for me to perform and that’s where he kept me. He had different relationships with different players but the team was always his priority. You can see, everywhere he goes there is a big improvement and sometimes without superstars. The Brumbies’ players are now attributing their current form and success to his structures.
BC- Whom are the best player(s) you have played with?
Andre – I made my debut for The Lions in 1999 when Laurie Mains moved Hennie Le Roux to centre so I could play fly half. Hennie has a great rugby mind and had the skills to back it up. Japie Mulder is another player whom I admired for his work ethic and his attitude on the field. Some teams have big names and it’s easy to say they are the best players you have played with but with the Lions we never had a lot of Superstars (like Jaque Fourie). We had a lot of special team players like Ernst Joubert, Heinke van der Merwe, Jano Vermaak who never really got the praise they deserved publicly but they got it from who it mattered…. The Team.
BC- Tell me about that last minute penalty in Rustenburg against the All Blacks? It is believed to have saved Jake’s job.
Andre – Firstly I would like to say that I don’t think that saved Jake’s job. Jake saved his own job by getting us to win that match. I love that memory of The Royal Bafokeng erupting after the ball went over and when the whistle went for fulltime the happiness in the team and the relief was unbelievable. Jake gave me the man of the match Springbok skin that night which made it even more special for me.
BC- You have played for several teams and worked under different coaches. Who made the most impact on your career?
Andre – It took me 11 years to move for the first time. That is when I moved to Perth to join the Western Force. The Force had a really big impact on me because of how they manage their players and how far ahead they were with rugby technology. I joined the Sharks for the 2010 Currie Cup and there one man opened my eyes to rehabilitation how it is supposed to be done…JIMMY WRIGHT. Jimmy is not the limelight type but he does amazing work with and for the players. He has a passion for life and the well being of others and even though he was a very busy man he still had time to meet you for coffee and ask how things were outside of rugby. His positive outlook on life rubs off on you and to him that is success.
BC- Which stadium has the best atmosphere to you?
Andre – Ellispark but when I played Sevens World Cup in 2001, that Mar del Plata stadium was also full of life!
BC- You have battled with injuries through your career. Fought back countless times. Tell us about those battles?
Andre – Injuries are a part of this great game. Some players hardly ever get injured and some more often. I accepted that I was part of the latter but where I was blessed was that I had some of the best professionals helping me to get back on the field. From the day of the injury to the day of return they would assist and help where they are needed. Dr. Fief Ferreira, operated on all my foot injuries and there were some bad ones but he fixed them again and again. Dr. Ferguson in Rosebank helped me with all my groin and hamstring injuries. The list goes on and on and to all of those people I am truly grateful.
BC- You were part of the victorious Sharks squad of 2010. What was it like?
Andre – Another big moment for me especially after we (Lions) lost our final in 2002 against the Bulls 31-7. Derrick Hougaard played the game of his life. As a player you never know how many finals you will be part of.
BC- How highly do you rate Pat Lambie who you vied for the number 10 jersey?
Andre – Pat is an amazing player and very composed and that’s what makes him a good 10. He is also very humble and has a willingness to learn which is not very common with today’s youngsters.
BC- Tell us about your short stints in France and Australia?
Andre – Perth is great place to live and raise a family. I enjoyed my time over there with the team and unfortunately had to return because of an injury. My first stint in France was with Toulon. The first month was quite difficult until Bernard Laporte came to coach. He turned my experience around with his coaching. I enjoy French culture so it was never a problem being in France and getting to know the locals.
BC- Which is your greatest achievement and disappointment?
Andre – The World Cup in 2007 has to be my greatest achievement. My biggest disappointment would have to be the season I never had with the Force. I was in the best shape after a very hard pre season and was feeling good for the tournament. I tore my hamstring off the bone and was out for 8 months.
BC- Who will win this year’s Super Rugby competition? Your former sides are doing well: Lions, Force and Sharks. Any of them?
Andre – Benedict you are asking the wrong man! My superbru picks will tell you why! The Lions are doing well and they have hit their stride at home, which is good because they don’t have a lot of depth and when you tour the injuries can sometimes pile up. The Sharks are doing well and they have depth so yes I think they will definitely be in the last 4. The Force is a mixed bag. At home they have also looked good but lets wait and see how they do without the MIB Faithful behind them. Sias is doing really well there and I hope his form continues.
BC- You are an avid Chelsea football fan. Have you watched them live?
Andre – Yes a TRUE BLUE!!!! We are actually going out to watch PSG vs. Chelsea in the Champions League Quarter final. Unfortunately I missed the Springbok tours when they went to watch Chelsea play and even got inside the changing room. Bryan Habana sent me a pic with Frank Lampard.
BC- Any advice to aspiring young players out there?
Andre – Master the real basic skill. You must be able to pass either way no matter what your position, as all players now are ball players. Be a team man even when it is difficult to be one. Building up your teammates instead of breaking them down after a mistake can make a big difference.
BC- Thanks Andre!
By Benedict Chanakira