A few months ago I lost my job.
The club I was playing for, Wasps in England, went bankrupt and I was made redundant.
Like so many South Africans who have been through the same, I was devastated. I didn’t know where to turn or what to do next.
Just like that, overnight, I went from living my dream to a nightmare.
Anybody who has ever lost their job knows the feeling, and I wouldn’t wish it upon any other rugby player to ever have to go through that. It was the lowest point of my career and the first time something like this had happened to me and my family.
You wake up in the morning with this dark cloud hanging over you, and this frustration. I was calling agents trying to figure out what is going on and what my next move could be.
The problem was that it happened at the start of the season and all the other English Premiership clubs had already spent their budgets on players. So suddenly you’re facing a situation where it feels like all the doors are closed. It’s the beginning of the season and you are ready to go and give your best, and then there’s just no opportunity.
As the main breadwinner in the family, you immediately start asking questions about how you’re going to provide for your family and just earn a living. You feel that pressure of needing to make something happen soon. It wasn’t pressure from my family. They are my anchor and they shared the burden with me. But when you’re the main breadwinner, you just instinctively take on the pressure. In a way they helped me to keep it together and not completely fall apart, because I didn’t want them to see that I was feeling it and worry even more. I kept telling myself that if I lose it now and give up, they would all suffer and I couldn’t allow that. But you take that pressure to bed with you every night, and I was in a dark space.
And that’s when Jake White phoned.
I’d been fortunate in my previous time with the Vodacom Bulls to build up a great relationship with Jake as my coach and Edgar Rathbone as the CEO of the Vodacom Bulls.
When they saw the news about Wasps going under, they reached out to me. They said the following to me, and I still get quite emotional about it: “Pretoria is your home. You’re always welcome here”.
It was a lifeline for me, and I am forever grateful to them for it.
I think it showed how grateful I was that I had one of my best performances in my first match back with the Vodacom Bulls against the Ospreys in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, and for which I was voted Man of the Match.
After all the struggles we’d been through as a family, I just felt this incredible relief to be privileged enough to be playing again. To have a job again. I had this sense of wanting to repay Jake and Edgar for their faith in me. I still do. I want to help this team win titles and be the best player I can be.
To anybody who is also struggling out there, I know what you’re feeling. You might think that as rugby players we’re somehow immune to the twists and turns of life or protected from it. We’re not. I can lose my job just like any ordinary South African. And I did.
I can also be let down by people. There will be a dark day for all of us in this life – guaranteed. No matter who you are.
But this experience has taught me that the people you can always rely on are your family and close friends. And that when your back is against the fall and it feels like your world is falling apart around you, keep fighting. Never give up for those you love and for those who need you to be strong for them.
And now, whether it’s a simple gym session or a big match, I go into it with the same mental attitude to give it my all because I know how different it can be.
I know how it can change overnight.
“My Voice” tells the Vodacom United Rugby Championship journey of the players – their highs and their lows on and off the field – in their own words.