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Have you ever played rugby? If not, why?

No, because it wasn’t offered at the school I went to. I’d probably have been useless at it even if it were. I’ve got zero sporting talent, which is why I particularly admire those who excel at sport.

Why is rugby the one sport you write about, as this is not your first book about rugby?

My first rugby book – Touch, Pause, Engage – came about because my publisher, Jonathan Ball, thought a woman writing about rugby might produce an interesting take on it. This was shortly after the Boks won the 2007 Rugby World Cup. My second book, Springbok Factory, was originally intended to be a diary of the 2011 Rugby World Cup but, of course, we didn’t do very well so instead I began an investigation of all aspects of Springbok rugby in an attempt to understand why we aren’t the consistent world beaters we should be, given the talent and passion at our disposal.

Which rugby team do you support and why?

Firstly,  the Springboks and then my home team, the Stormers.

Favourite player? Favourite coach?

Can I have two of each?  One of my favourite players is Jean de Villiers because I have seen what a great captain – and a great human being – he is.  Second is Jannie du Plessis because he manages the amazing dual feat of playing Springbok rugby and working as a doctor. He oversees the HIV/Aids clinic at the Military Hospital in Durban so he gets double points for working with very needy patients in a public health settting.

My favourite coaches are Heyneke Meyer because I think he does a difficult job well and Allister Coetzee because he is the first and only Super Rugby coach of colour but makes no issue of it.

From your book it is evident that you have high respect for Peter de Villiers. He has often referred to rugby writers with disdain in the media. Do you feel yourself part of the team of rugby writers or do you see yourself as a different type of writer to whom De Villiers’s disdain don’t apply?

I am a rugby writer in that I write about rugby but my focus is different to that of most of my colleagues because what interests me most is the man behind the player/coach.  I do think De Villiers had at times quite a rough ride with the media but he also courted it to a certain extent because his utterances were often far from conventional. He was, at least, entertaining!

How do you see the future of rugby in SA?

Can I change that to how I would like to see it? I would like the South African Rugby Union to reform so that it measures up to globally competitive standards.  For now, the Springboks have to subsidise too many small, uncompetitive unions. This means we can’t pay our best players properly – which is why we are losing them to Japan and Europe – and there is hardly any  development of black talent.  The bottom six unions need  to be dropped and the SARU executive council stocked with super-sharp talent from the corporate world, not with the current crop of super-annuated ex provincial presidents.


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