'You've got one shot, you've got to take it': All Access Springboks Special
In this RugbyPass All Access special edition of Spirit of Rugby, Jim Hamilton is joined by 2009 series winners John Smit and Pierre Spies – brought to you in partnership with The Famous Grouse.
Both players relived the ’09 series victory for South Africa, providing an insight into what the legendary second Test was like. That Test has been remembered as one of the most brutal and dramatic matches ever played, and Smit shared his unique perspective as captain of the Springboks.
Also in this episode, the pair discuss what the spirit of rugby means to them, the message that they would send to this Springboks team ahead of the series, as well as the former No8 Spies’ life after rugby.
On the second Test, Smit said: “It’s got to be one of my most memorable Test matches. We knew they had a sniff and we knew they were going to come in quite confident and so our whole plan was to start even faster. To accelerate the pace, we spent time on placing the ball further out, cleaning rucks. We just wanted Fourie [du Preez] to get the ball into the fly-half’s hands all the time. So all of that went absolutely out of the window when we lost Schalk [Burger] in the first minute. It was like we couldn’t get out of this lull of playing slow to try and get back to 15 men.
“I got reasonably aggressive at half-time and we had to shake a few cages and really get the message across. We had to restart that Test at half-time, to refocus on how we wanted to play and then make some changes to re-jig things up and try to get ourselves a result in the second Test. I can’t tell you how much of a memorable rollercoaster that was for me as the leader of that pack.”
“It had a lot of Fs in it, and it was pretty much ‘Wake the F up. Let’s get back to playing.'”
Spies said: “From the start of that Test match we could see we were in for something different today. This is the amazing thing about sport because really it’s just about how you finish.
“We had a strong bench coming on, guys making a massive impact in Heinrich Brussow and Morne Steyn, who kicked the winning kick at the end. So it was an immense, immense Test with so many moments, significant moments that really swung the game in different directions. It was like a ping pong match up until the last minute when Morne Steyn kicked that last penalty.”
When asked what the spirit of rugby means to him, Spies said: “The spirit of rugby in South Africa carries a powerful symbol of unity for the country. It brings us together under one flag and under one purpose. It really has played a huge role in our country. Across the world the spirit of rugby, the camaraderie and respect is the big thing. You can be in such a huge battle and combat and then straight after every match there is a camaraderie and mutual respect of the game and an understanding of what has just taken place and what is the bigger picture. So the sport is amazing and that is why we must work hard to get more and more people involved in it.”
Smit passed this message on to the current Springboks squad: “This is not a normal Test match, this is not a normal series. This is something that happens every twelve years and you won’t get a second chance. That message came out loud an clear to us by the ’97 squad under Teich [Gary Teichmann] and when we got that message, the impetus was massive. So my message to them would be: ‘You’ve got one shot, you’ve got to take it.'”
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