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Comebacks and kittens


For any sportsman, being sidelined through injury is a constant possibility. For a professional sportsman, it’s an ongoing occupational hazard, the frustrations of which attack us all at some stage of our careers.

I’ve had my fair share of being forced to watch my teammates training and playing while doing injury rehab. For a professional sportsman this can be emotionally as well as physically draining because sport is our livelihoods and the core of our lives.

However, I’m only going to be positive about my knee injury, as I don't want to bore you to distraction with stories of frustration.

It has been a massive learning curve for me. The amount of personal growth I have endured has left me certain that I am on a path designed for me, that this destiny is mine because I am strong enough to carry the burden and come out stronger on the other side.

We might not always understand why life throws us into certain situations. My belief is that everything in my past and everything I am having to deal with now, has equipped me to deal with what the future holds. I am more than ready for whatever that is! (If you are wondering – yes, I did study philosophy at UCT.)

There came a point when I decided to keep a low profile when my knee was not responding well to the hard work I was putting into recovery, as people were starting to recognise me as 'the guy who writes the blogs' and not the player who is giving everything for the Stormers.

I wasn’t in a physical state to contribute to the Stormers and while I love writing, at this stage I am a rugby player by profession. I left the journalism to respected scribes like Gavin Rich and Stephen Nell who do it professionally and expertly.

This road has taught me how to deal with disappointment, to persevere when it seems you are getting little reward for putting your heart and soul into something. At low moments, frustration led to an option of conceding defeat to injury, but deep inside I knew I couldn't do that. The man in the mirror didn't take me seriously.

I am very close to playing now, at last, thank heavens. My knee feels strong and my spirit could not be more eager to take the field.

I don't want to put unnecessary pressure on myself and build up my comeback, but time away from the game has an amazing ability to revitalise your attitude towards it. I refuse to play another game with fear of failure. I have promised myself I’ll play the game the way I played when I was first noticed – with the desire to be great far more substantial than the fear to be poor. Let’s see how that pans out.

Enough on my knee.

Our cat 'Tommy' gave birth last week. The only explanation for calling a female Tommy is that we thought Tommy was a boy until 'his' unusual weight gain turned out to be pregnancy. She had two beautiful little kittens, which have been named 'Gatiep' and 'Meraai' until we find suitable names. I hope those names don't stick.

The Currie Cup has been fascinating. The gamblers must be having a nightmare as so many games have proved almost impossible to call.

I am so excited by the young talent coming through in this Currie Cup. De Kock Steenkamp was the only Western Province starting tight forward against Griquas who does not qualify to play under-21s, and despite looking 34 with that beard of his, he is only 25.

JP du Plessis has shown that he has one of the best steps in world rugby. In training, even when I know which way he is going, he still steps me. It must be similar to facing Shane Warne. You know he is a legspinner, you just often underestimate how much it's going to move. JP is a great prospect for the future.

His centre partner Marcel Brache has proved a revelation this season. Making Marce vice-captain was a masterstroke by the coaches as it has really given him confidence in his game. And at 25, he has finally bought a car. His roommate Nic Groom was delighted, as dropping him off and picking him up at house parties on weekends was getting a bit much.

Groomy was in loco parentis for Marce for the first eight months of the year, so he is delighted to be relieved of this arduous duty.

My hero from Hawston, Gio Aplon, has been not unlike a fish out of water in recent weeks without Juan de Jongh's company. It just doesn't feel right when you see Gio without his great mate Juan close by. It's like watching Friends without Joey, or seeing Tom without Jerry, or Andy Murray without his annoying mother. I see him sometimes sitting at lunch with a blank stare in his eyes, an expression of longing, as if he is wondering if Juan will ever return.

Of course, our masseur Greg Daniels is delighted at Juan's absence. His workload has halved. He was apparently seen tanning during training the other day. Deon Carstens is also happy because he can now claim the highly prized, prestigious No 1 spot in Fifa.

Perhaps I should call our kittens Gio and Juan.

It feels great to be back writing and more importantly, playing. I'm really keen to get game-time and have just found out that I'm playing for UCT this weekend! If my knee is ready, it'll be pure bliss!

I’ll report back next week.

Feel free to post comments and questions and I’ll tackle the most interesting ones.


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