IN INTERVIEW WITH. . . Pierre Spies
Where he found his love for Rugby . . .
"Well you know, rugby is a big sport so when you are a young boy and my dad also played for the Bulls. We grew up with it, we had a rugby ball at home and in the back yard we'd be kicking it around as if you were running over guys and scoring tries. That's where the love started and I basically started when I was eight years old."
Other sports that he could have taken up instead . . .
"Well in school I participated in as many sports as I could, I believe that is actually very important because it gives you development in other areas and also you get to be with different people. During my high school career I had to decide between athletics and rugby, because I was doing quite well in athletics as well. I chose rugby because it runs deep in our blood and yes the rest is history."
School mates of his who have also gone on to sporting greatness . . .
"I came from a boys school in Pretoria and we had a few proper cricketers, golfers and a world-renowned pianist. AB De Villiers was a year ahead of me and he used to play fly half, Faf Du Plessis who also plays for the Proteas. There were then some fellow rugby players who were a few years ahead of me so it's great to be part of a school with some great sportspeople coming out of it."
What it meant to represent the Springboks over fifty times . . .
"If you are pursuing your dream then the pinnacle is where you want to be. That was my goal you know, I wanted to play for the Springboks from a young age and I was fortunate enough to have it come my way. I played many games, was part of great teams and it was just an amazing journey for me."
His stand-out career moments . . .
"Yes I think your first year, your breakthrough year is always a big one. I had my breakthrough year in 2006 and that really put me onto the map, if I can say that. That gave me my chance to play for the Springboks but when you speak about defining moments, even after getting a chance I was dropped again, but then it's about your way of working your way back and using the opportunities that you have. I got opportunities again and had man of the match performances which kept me in the side. The competition at the top level is so hard you need to be at your best all the time and you need to be super-consistent. The amazing thing that sport teaches you is the characteristics that you have to apply when performing at the top level."
Future thoughts after his recent retirement from the game . . .
"I'm a man of faith and I went about praying, and God told me that it was my time. I'm preparing myself for the next part of life, everyone reaches this path in different ways. I'm not looking back but looking forward to the next part of my life."
Detaching himself from the rugby pro identity . . .
"I think that's where I have been quite fortunate and you have to make sure that rugby doesn't become your identity. Even though people identify you as as that I was thinking about retirement a lot, even as a young player. You think about the time when you will finish and you know how you want to be remembered. Something that I also applied in my life was to have friends who were outside of the game, which keeps you in touch with people and normal life. That helped me quite a lot."
Whether he will remain in and around world rugby . . .
"To be honest I am not quite sure about where I would be involved with the sport, definitely not coaching, maybe some motivation or life coaching. I think we will see how things turn out and I have other ideas that I want to get my hands stuck into."
The story behind his Christian faith . . .
"Well I was a young man with a very promising future but I was living my own life, going about it as I wanted and not really being focused or purpose-driven. I was partying quite a bit and you reach a point where your conscience speaks to you and my conscience started eating me up because I knew that the way I was living was not right. I had a friend in my life who invited me to church and that was a moment in my life that changed the rest of my career. I was twenty-years-old and I became a born-again Christian, I gave my life to God and said that I would live for him instead of myself. My life was never the same again, God completely turned my life around and gave me so much fulfilment which is something that sport or partying could not give me. I am pursuing that still to this very day. My whole career changed because of that decision and my relationship with God just started and it's been a journey that I am very excited about. That's why I can look to the future and know that God is with me."
How his upbringing contributes to his faith . . .
"Well your parents, whether you believe in something or not, are laying a foundation for life so if you are a Christian your parents will lay a Christian foundation, if you are a Muslim or you believe in nothing at all, your parents are laying some kind of a foundation. But there still comes a point in your life where you have to make a decision for yourself about what you want to believe and what kind of worldview you have. For me that day came when I was twenty years old, there were some foundations laid by my parents and the way that we grew up but that didn't make me a Christian."
Whether he'd be where he is today without it . . .
"No not at all because it gave me a lot of purpose, it gave me a lot of understanding for why I am doing what I am doing. It's not just for myself and that it is actually a talent given to us by God. We should develop our talents and use them to glorify His name. Also if you live a Christian life it keeps you on the path that is quite focused and it helps you a lot with your professional career. The biggest impact that my faith has had on my life is in the tough times, when I went through serious injuries setbacks. Those were times when I could have easily chosen a lot of ways to handle the difficulties but putting my faith in God and reading the bible, really keeps me strong and my hands high."
The thinking behind his social media bio- 'Sharing hope, walking in faith, pursuing purpose' . . .
"When we are Christians we are called to share the good news of Christ and what he has done for mankind. That really is the purpose that I am pursuing and walking in faith because we do not know what the future holds, but we know God, who is holding the future. That's what I am doing, trying to reach as many people and trying to share the message with as many as I can. I just try to love people the way that God loved us."
His take on social media as a pro athlete . . .
"I think the thing with social media is that there is almost no escape from it, we are living in a world where if you are not on it, then you don't exist. So I think the important thing is to ask 'what is the reason you use it for?' Obviously you are always going to find people that will have some form of criticism or bad word, but that's just human nature. It's part of the journey but you are reaching people and that's the big thing, with every negative comment there are also a lot of people that you are really encouraging and those are the ones that we focus on."