So I’d like to share six special memories
of the 2019 rugby World Cup. For me as a player, it has really been amazing. I think the six moments I’m going to be sharing
are moments that I’ve been enjoying in the competition and moments that I will never
ever forget for the rest of my rugby career! I think I’ll start with the All Blacks, the
first test which was definitely the big match to sit the foundation for the rugby world
cup for both teams and it’s just to go play in one of the best teams in the world, you
want to measure yourself against the best in the world and playing the opening game
against the All Blacks just made it so much more special. Without getting the result we wanted, I think
the belief and the hunger has always been there after that loss, and we just kept on
believing in one another and we knew what our goal was. And it’s not just for us to be the best that
we can but we knew the situation in South Africa and what South Africa has been challenged
with, with a lot of politic things, crime, a lot of difficulties to put it that way so
it wasn’t about ourselves, it was about the whole country that’s been supporting us. We just wanted to give back to them and put
on a lot of smiles and create a lot of positive vibes in South Africa and create a lot of
opportunities for young and older people because we’re the heroes and us as athletes can make
a difference but it’s not about us, it’s about giving a lot of motivation to million of people
back in South Africa because if you can put a smile on a young boy’s face that’s been
walking in the streets, that means a lot to that little boy or little girl and for us,
just to see our country in a better state, that’s what we wanted to achieve. Just unite our country, the way things has
been. See everybody together, having fun. Sharing some tears together and just enjoying
each and every moment with us and feeling it with us as we win in the world cup. I think the moment we leave South Africa,
from Johannesburg, all the people that came out have been shouting for us, encouraging
us, and just telling us “just go out, fly the South African flag high and just play
the best rugby that you can”. My second one is an interesting one and it’s
a bit of a sad one for me. It’s from the match against Italy, when in
the 79th minute I got a line break, got tackled, say 15 meters from the try line and I literally
twisted my ankle. In the moment when I twisted it, I thought,
listen… I couldn’t get up, I couldn’t stand on my
feet, I thought this could be the end of my rugby World Cup. And the first thing that I did was I just
asked God “Listen, please, just keep it over me and just protect me, and make this injury
not as bad as I think it is”, I literally just walked off the field, I felt calm, I
never thought that this opportunity was gonna be taken from me. The moment when this injury happened, I thought
“this is some big big trouble”, but after I did the prayer I really felt calm. So I got injured the Saturday, I had to train
by the latest on the Tuesday afternoon, to make sure I could be selected for the up and
coming weekend. And I got to the Monday, trained, I couldn’t
finish the training. I had to do what I had to do to get ready
for Tuesday. The same thing happened I got through the
training but I wasn’t as comfortable as what I was as a player. And you just get a lot of emotions going through
your head, a lot of things going through your head, listen, you don’t want to force yourself
because you don’t want to let the team down as well. And I just did what I had to do, I did what
the physios asked me to do, I just put in the extra effort, and I got to the Wednesday,
when after, I went to the physios to do some extras and make sure I could run flat out
on my ankle and change directions. That Wednesday afternoon, literally everything
planned went properly and I did what I do, I did my fitness test, I did everything. I went 100% but I did every thing that I think
I could make in a game but it hasn’t really been easy because it’s always been in my head,
what if I get another tackle or just tw ist it again and it might just stay completely. And I got selected for the qualifying match
against Japan, the host, which was obviously a massive thing because of what happened back
in 2015. A lot of Japanese people believed that it
could happen again and we knew what happened and we never wanted that to ever happen to
the Springbocks jersey because it definitely hurts a lot. I think everybody just got motivated for that
match as well. Yeah, I can remember getting into the Japan
game, the first kickoff Handre did, it was Handre the number 8, and on the first tackle,
first thing my ankle went again. I was like “Jesus, this is gonna be a long,
long match for me”. Carried on playing, carried on playing, second
ball I got I got tackled again, ankle went again. But it went probably for like 5 times in this
game against Japan, my ankle kept rolling, kept rolling. I just kept on pushing through the pain that
I could have handled as a player, and I just got to about the last 20 minutes and then
I told the doctor “listen, I don’t think I can go anymore, because I think I’m definitely
gonna either break something or do something really bad”. I knew we had a great bench, and we had great
backup as wingers with S’Busiso as well and we definitely, we have learned a lot from
one another and I know I wouldn’t be the greedy, greedy person to fail something and let the
team down at the end of the day because that’s what I am as a player and that’s not what
you want for the jersey. If you’re not greedy, you’re not greedy, and
that’s another opportunity for another player. So yeah, that was really emotional for me,
because my tournament could have been done. I could have gone home. Not being a part of the team so I just kept
telling myself “you just have to stay strong, believe in everything, God will push you through
this”. THat was my second one. My third memory is definitely scoring against
England in the final. After all the things that I’ve been through,
from the Italy game, what happened in the quarterfinal, I missed the semifinal against
Wales, I must say the boys have really played well in the semifinal, for us to qualify for
the final. And to be honest, I wasn’t sure I would probably
be in the team for the final because the team that has played in the semifinal, they really
laid a good foundation and you couldn’t fault anyone for having a bad game. I was just doing what I had to do to make
sure I was ready for whatever comes, and I can remember S’Bu telling me “listen, if I
play the semifinal, I will do the best that I can, and if you play the final I know that
you’ll do the best that you can and live up from where you lived during the competition”. It just shows you that there are a lot of
beliefs, and there is a lot of maturity, within the players. Especially guys in the same role, in the same
position as you. We never wanted… How could I say? We always wanted the best for one another,
whatever good for the team. That’s what we wanted. If we could learn from someone different,
that’s what we wanted because we knew that was gonna be the difference at the end of
the day. We’re not doing it for ourselves, we’re doing
it for 56 million people back home. And you could just see that within the group,
throughout the competition and I can remember this message from coach Rassie Erasmus before
the final, he literally threw all the players, when they come from, what school they went
to, the different races, the variety, and everything. That literally for me, throughout the whole
competition, because yes he can give you a message but it’s so much special to literally
throw up each and every player, saying where they come from, what school he went to, how
we had to get through this system to achieve and get to professional rugby, that to me
literally, touched something special inside me but obviously I had to keep calm because
with England winning New Zealand in the semifinal, it was a really awesome game. I mean, they really played well and to be
honest I think, 100%, 80 or 85%, they were the favorite to win the final. And we just had to look back at ourselves
and just do what the coach asked, make sure we know every single detail, because in a
final it’s not about magic, it’s the small detail, it’s discipline. It’s gonna be the team that has the best defense,
that has the best hunger on the day, that’s gonna pull it through. I think what helped us as players as well
is having our families around. The coach gave us the freedom for our families
to come over and share the special occasion with us, which not a lot of teams I think
at that level reach. We were fortunate enough to have them in the
same hotel as us, we can sleep with them, and I think that makes it so much special
because you wanna enjoy this moment with them as well. Although you know what the biggest task is,
but just knowing you have an excellent camp, you have excellent support with you makes
your life so much easier. And if you have a bad day at training, you
can go back to the hotel and have your family, have someone around, kids, they love you a
lot. I think this have played a massive role for
us. I was just excited the moment I had the ball
in my hands on the sideline with a bit of space around me. I just made sure that I won’t let this opportunity
go by and just make the most out of it. I just did what I had to do, what I’ve been
training or have done throughout 2019, this season. For us as wingers, whenever there is this
opportunity, there’s just to finish off. I just got the ball, I just knew I had to
make something happen with the two guys coming across, either just stop and then go again,
and I just went on the goose, and I had one on one opportunity, it was with Owen Farrell,
and I just backed myself. As I went on the goose, I just went on the
outside. He probably thought I would just keep on going
on the inside and I just went back with two steps on the inside and got away from the
tackle from Owen Farrell. Then the first thing is just to just get to
the trial as quickly as possible, because you don’t want to slip or you don’t want to
knock on the ball, you just want to take it down as quickly as possible. It has really been, how can I say… enjoyable. And I will never ever forget that moment. My fourth one is also very special to me. It was definitely after the final whistle
went. First thing I did, I obviously thanked God
for this whole competition, for pulling me through the competition with no serious injuries. And the first thing I did after that, I went
straight to the stands, I went with my family and because without them this definitely wouldn’t
have been possible. My wife has always been there to support me
and my little one was always there to motivate me because yes, I’m doing this because I love
it, but I’m also doing this because I want to create a better future for her and make
sure there are a lot of opportunities for her in the future as she gets older. This has always been my motivation to do better,
is for my wife, who’s always been there for me, and always praying for me. She had a lot back in South Africa where she
worked, she studied, she worked, and she left everything just like that to come to France
with me on a new journey, on a new opportunity and for that I will always be thankful for
that because she could have decided “listen, I’d rather stay in South Africa and focus
on my career” but she came with me to support me and with us, having the little one, we
always wanted to be together because there was never a tension since the little one was
born that we wanted to be on different paths. We always wanted to be together. And she’s in every moment. The fifth one is just the whole team celebrating
when we lifted up the Webb Ellis cup, just to see all the smiles, the happiness on all
the faces, not just the players but management as well, because there’s been a lot of hard
work put in behind the scenes, from management, physios, doctors, dieticians, coaching staff,
players, everybody back home at the SA rugby offices, everybody has been on the same journey
and with us lifted that cup we had a lot of smiles, we had a lot of laughs on our faces,
we know why because there’s been so many people that added so much towards this team who was
world cup winners in 1995, 2007 and now in 2019. And then we see the people back home behind
the scenes who are making everything work, making sure everything is in place, there’s
no mistakes when you travel overseas or go to the world cup, everything runs very smoothly. The moment the final whistle went, you knew
that you’re the 2019 world champion, but the moment the whistle went, the moment we lifted
the cup, the moment you change in the changing room, if you could ask any player in that
group, this hasn’t sunk in as much after they came, it hasn’t in the day after, because
it just doesn’t feel real. Although you’ve won it, but it doesn’t feel
like clarity. My next moment is probably one of my best
moments that I’ll be sharing now. It’s landing in South Africa, traveling in
the streets and seeing all the people in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth
and Cape Town, it’s really awesome to see all the people come out. I promise you, these people didn’t go to work,
they wanted to share this moment with us as well. That’s the moment we landed in Johannesburg,
I think that’s when everything sunk in. Just getting a warm welcome from each and
every South African, at the airport, in the streets, that’s when everything sunk in to
me. Knowing “okay, this is real”. It’s really happened. It’s what we wanted since the start of the
World Cup. And we’ve achieved it. Just seeing everybody united no matter what,
what race, what culture, you’re from, everybody was together, everybody was kind, everybody
was laughing together, that’s what we wanted as a group. I think we have achieved that, I think there
is still a lot that we can do as rugby players to make a difference within South Africa. It’s a small thing, we started it as a little
bit, and just got better and better. To me it was definitely getting back to South
Africa, seeing everyone, supporting us and driving through the cities, people get to
see you for ten seconds, they’ve been standing there for four hours but they only see you
for ten seconds but they will carry that for the rest of their lives and they will never
ever forget that moment. That’s what you just want to do, is give back
to this people as much as you can and in Port Elizabeth, they’ve been one boy literally
running behind the bus for an hour and a half, non stop he just kept on running and cheering
us and waving, small things like that that we take for granted, that could be a big difference
in that boy’s life. You never know what he wanted to achieve but
seeing his heroes, that could make a difference for him to excel into his goal, what he wanted
to do and his life. Small things like that really makes a big
difference in people’s life. What we can do as players is just give back,
as I said. Give back as much as we can.