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TeamTalk: Storyteller Mike Charton, AB de Villiers and the Du Preez family final

LONDON — Have a listen to the latest episode of TeamTalk with Alec Hogg and Bob Skinstad. Here they host a special guest in South Africa’s talented storyteller, former accountant turned historian Michael Charton, who is picking up where the late David Rattray ended. On the sporting front the duo look through different coloured glasses at this weekend’s Rugby Currie Cup final; share high hopes for the AB de Villiers-driven Proteas; and venture into the political arena where the stakes couldn’t be higher ahead of the ANC’s elective conference in December. – Alec Hogg

Bob, you’ve been travelling the world. I was back in SA and here as well so, we’ve missed a week or so. Lot’s happening on the sporting front but before we go there we’ve got a pal of yours on the line.

Yes, we do. We’re really privileged to chat to a friend of mine, Michael Charton who I’ve known for a while. I know the family and have known them in CT since I went down to Stellenbosch. They’ve been involved in some of the sporting institutions and academic institutions, and a combination of the two and we’ve made friends. Michael has taken a huge deviation in his career, which we’ll hear about now but you’re right, we’ve been away. I was in CT so I got to see some beautiful sun cast over Table Mountain. Not much water around, (a lot of worried people) but a lot of people actually making a big effort to adhere to all of the restrictions that they’re being put under at the moment because it’s under tremendous strain, but we can talk through that and the ramifications. Michael, I think, is online right now. How are you, Charts?

Yes, very well thanks Bob. Thanks for having me.

It’s great to chat and I know you’re travelling all over SA at the moment. You’ve picked up some serious momentum over the last couple of years. Just maybe for our listeners’ benefit, what inherits SA and Michael Charton as a storyteller, a raconteur, etc has become and why? You had a very successful career in advertising. A financial director and then one big leap into the abyss but I suppose it was a calculated leap at the time?

Michael Charton. Twitter profile pic (@Michael_Charton)

Yes, it’s relatively calculated. The very basis for it is that it’s an old SA phenomenon that, at some point in our lives, our eyes are opened to the fact that our country is a unique country. For me, that happened at university before my career change but through reading some books at university as an accountant student I came to realise that this place is fascinating so, when I finally finished articles, as a chartered accountant, the very next year I picked up, whilst living in America. I started studying history through UNISA and that process, and to keep it relatively brief, basically, (in short) it created many more questions than answers. Yes, I began a life on the side where I’m trying to create a world which I understand a bit through reading as much as I could, all non-fiction, and in time I just came to realise, standing around the braai, around primarily tertiary educated SA, just how little we all know about our past. That was really the insight or the underlying purpose for Inherit SA. Then as you’ll know, a sequence of events saw me out of nowhere start telling the story of the 1937 Springbok rugby team. In a sense that was a catalyst in that it provided me with a bit of confidence that I could tell a story and, yes, I tried to apply those learnings to what is a much bigger story being my new story, which is ‘My Father’s Coat,’ which boldly attempts to unearth some of the key dynamics which have created the SA tragedy and ultimately again, then the reconciliation of 1994.

Michael, it’s quite interesting in that in my trip to Johannesburg, SA last week a couple who’d gone along to your talk of ‘My Father’s Coat’ were all over me and telling me that we needed to hear from you. We needed to engage with you and that you’re the next David Rattray and they felt that no one else is telling the story of SA in the way that you have. Just to go back into that very briefly. Did you ever meet Rattray? Did he inspire you at all because it seems like a lot of what you’re doing is similar?

Yes, I did speak to him a year before he was murdered, and I was actually living in America at the time. I had come out for a school reunion and a wedding, and we had a week in between so, my mother and I, we went through to see him speak. I remember very clearly saying to my mother at the time, how jealous I was of the life he had created for himself. To me it looked very meaningful. Yes so, I was very jealous of the life he’d created but more importantly, to me, he created meaning for me, especially on that story. The story about a battle that took place 130 years ago. From that moment on I’ve always looked at the Zulu people through a very different set of eyes and yes, I guess I wondered whether perhaps there could be a way for us to look at all of our various people with a new curiosity and a new respect, and a new pride. A lot of the SA challenges, certainly the way I grew up, to be a good South African you’re meant to look forward and to reconcile and to just be good in the future. As a result, I think we’re missing a lot of opportunities. We’ve got so many, fascinating groups of South Africans we ignore, which is something to be proud of. I just don’t think a lot of us have the inclination or wanting to see if the information exists and Inherit SA’s intention over the longer term would be to try and make this accessible to people.

There is an irony in the fact that a guy who’s worked in a digital advertising agency with a proliferation of social media and other forms is now harking back and guiding people towards the much loved but largely lost art of storytelling. Is that something that you found easy from the beginning or is it something you’ve had to learn, the process of turning an anecdote, if you will, into a gripping tale?

I actually don’t know the answer to that. I think we all learn a little bit around the fire. As South Africans it’s part of what we do, and I think a lot of it has been instinct. I did take some conscious lessons from hearing the guys at the battlefields. The main one being that a story has to be niche as opposed to generally being a lecture, but I think a lot of it has been instinct and I’ve resisted the opportunity or the advice to take drama lessons and voice lessons because I believe storytelling is individual. It seems to be working sufficiently well so, it’s really been sweet. To be honest, I think the answer is primarily knowing what I find is interesting and trying to find ways to make that interesting for other people as well.

We’re going to talk to you more on BizNews in the weeks ahead but before we let you go now, and Bob managed to track you down to an airport so, if it’s cell phone reception, we know why it is but on ‘My Father’s Coat’ those 5 people that you selected, Mzilikazi, Kruger, Rhodes, Smuts, and Mandela what went into that and why did you go with those 5?

I’ll start by saying it’s not because I consider them to be great people. It’s really, they were great enablers for me to tell the Shakespearean tragedy, which kind of unfolded. They also enabled me to weave the story together. I really try not to say the words ‘and then’ ever in my story. I don’t want it to feel like a chronological sequence of events, like a lecture must. Mzilikazi was an amazing guy and an amazing leader. He pulled together an empire twice in his lifetime but what is interesting about him is that his son, Lobengula, inherited the Matabele empire. While Mzilikazi fought a battle against Paul Kruger, who is my second character. His son, Lobengula, battled it against Rhodes, who’s my third character. So, it just helped me weave the story together. Then I used Smuts to sort of begin the process of uniting South Africans all around. In a sense, united white South Africans that in some ways at the expense of black South Africans. Then that reconciliation process continued on through Mandela. I guess the only other insight there on those 5 characters is that they all had direct contact with the next person, or the next ring in the chain so, I wanted that authenticity of having a direct link. I’m often asked, ‘why I don’t bring Shaka in, for example?’ Unfortunately, Shaka was dead before the Great Trek began, for example so, I couldn’t find a direct link. It really is with a combination of being enablers to tell the story and the fact that they each touched space with the next person in the story.

So, Michael, you’ve changed your life, you’ve changed your career. It sounds like you’re pretty busy because the only time we could track you down was at an airport. What exactly are you doing and how are your days being filled?

I initially wrote the story for tourism, believe it or not, and that’s just from the earlier time, and I took advice from South Africans that this was a story that South Africans would enjoy. I liked the tourism market mainly from a business perspective, a fresh market coming in every day and that was the idea. I’ve been fairly humbled by the fact that South Africans have really taken to the story and as a result I’ve totally shifted focus away from tourism and South Africans are my market and to be honest, they’re a much more meaningful market for me. It’s primarily corporate. I just came from a large law firm this morning. I’ve got my own show this evening so, I do my own shows once a month, one in Jo’burg and one in CT so, 2 a month, one in each city. I guess it’s a word of mouth support, but my primary market has been corporates in SA, anything from small enterprises right through to the big banks.

Well, Michael not to let on too much but Alec and I are conniving and conspiring hopefully because there’s a large expat community in and around the town where we live. Maybe we can convince you to follow some of your passions. One being following rugby to this part of the world and maybe come and entertain some of us over here but for now, it’s just inspiring to see someone following his dream but doing it successfully, doing it methodically, and doing it sustainably so, from our side, congratulations on that and I hope it goes from strength to strength.

Thanks guys, I appreciate it. I am now going to sprint at 3/4 pace through this airport to try and get to the end. I really appreciate you guys hosting me. Thanks a lot.

Lovely talking to Michael so, you’ve known him for a long time, Bob?

Yes, I’ve known the family. I was at university with one of the brothers, Ryan. Bully Charton was involved in the Red and Yellow School, they had an advertising school in CT and is a legend of, I would say, 2 decades at least, of people who’ve gone through the advertising industry in that space. Jambles, his other brother, worked with me in our hospitality business so, I’ve known him. I think we’ve always sort of missed each other. We’re probably 2 or 3 years apart in terms of actual tertiary education years. I don’t think we’ve played rugby against each other, but he’s always been in the same social circle. We’ve got a lot of similar friends. He’s a wonderful guy and I have obviously subscribed to all the podcasts and I must say, I recommend to you. There’s a lovely story about the origins of Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika, the national anthem of SA. Our national anthem is a derivation of the original Nkosi Sikelel, meaning ‘God bless Africa.’ So, it’s the original story of that. He’s got a wonderful story about Sailor Milan, who was a SA hero in the Battle of Britain, defending Britain, at that stage, or defending the allies in general I suppose, from German onslaught and it’s a wonderful story as well and they’re nice little snippets.

Bob Skinstad

Probably 15 – 20 minutes, great for a commute here in the UK so, I’m probably putting pressure on him to get out a few more because he’s got an unbelievable skill to unearth the nuggets of a story. Often a story might be that a person went from point A to point B, and the journey along the way had facets in it. He uncovers the great facets, the goose bump facets – the little bits that make the biggest difference. My favourite story is the one of the 1937 Springbok team, which went over and was all conquering beating New Zealand in a series over there. ‘The first World Champions,’ as the BBC called them in those days, and he literally uncovered stories from grandchildren of the people on tour. The pictures include letters from wives, mothers, and fathers because they were over there on a 6-week ship voyage before they even got to land on the other side. They went through Australia and New South Wales and made it there, and he tells the story over about 90 minutes. The time flies so quickly. You don’t even have time to literally catch your breath and you want to hear the next bit so, what a wonderfully skilled and talented individual who I think again, in his imitable way, has unearthed a nugget. It doesn’t matter what SA you’re from, you love a story.

Well, we’re going to be talking to him into the future and, as you say, hoping to get him over here to the UK where the sun is shining.

Today it is.

Yes, today it is, at least. Bob, we saw each other yesterday and I saw you were very surprised when I asked you, ‘who are you supporting in the Currie Cup Final this weekend?’ But you grew up in Natal so, surely there’s got to be a little part of you that thinks the Sharks are…Or a little part of your heart that is for the Sharks but clearly you said to me, ‘What?’

No, Alec, let me put that to bed for you. So, it’s Currie Cup Final time and I’m a bit worried about the Currie Cup at the moment because we’re not seeing the crowds. This is the once mighty bastion of SA rugby. This was the anchor on which Louis Luyt cast us all under and had the lion’s share of the advertising revenue from Sanzar in the first coalition post-World Cup in 1995, and it’s become a hardly or sparsely attended competition and the rugby, to be honest, hasn’t been that inspiring.

What do the players think of it?

Well, I think the players are getting wiser and wiser, and they’re looking at who’s got the cheque books. At the moment that’s Italy, Japan, France, and somewhere else so, I am a bit worried about it all. Delighted that the Springboks did so well in that match against the All Blacks where they came so close but disappointed that the Wallabies were actually able to turn it into a victory. It showed that the All Blacks are not invincible and maybe with a bit more thought we could have beaten them.

Back to the issue at hand, Currie Cup – I never played Currie Cup level rugby anywhere in Natal. I played Super Rugby there for a year. I applied to them and I was rejected as a young player and Western Province wrote me a letter and accepted me to Stellenbosch University at 18, and I was paying for myself so, I’ve got absolutely no problem in saying it was their problem. I applied to Natal University and to Stellenbosch University. I got into Stellenbosch on a rugby bursary and I fell in love with what the blue and white hoops came to mean so, I’ll be supporting them 100%.

Sharks RugbyThe Sharks is a franchise across 3 different competitions, well not so much Vodacom Cup now, but across the different competitions. The Stormers and Western Province are 2 different entities. We were at Western Province and invented what the Stormers became so, I’m deeply linked to that part of the world. I just wish they weren’t so deep in debt and were run better.

So, if the Currie Cup has lost its shine or much of its shine, this game on the weekend, will you still be glued to the screen? Do you think people in Durban and CT are also going to be as interested as that of the years gone by?

Look, it’s final time so, they will be interested.

Has it sold out?

Look, the semi-final wasn’t, and I haven’t heard that the final is, I hope it is.

Anyway, hopefully Kings Park or is it at the other stadium? Anyway, wherever they’re playing let’s hope the weather is good. Let’s hope there’s lots of skill level in there.

Exactly, let’s show the rest of the world the kind of skill level that we are capable of.

But you are in CT this week?

I will be in CT.

And there’s a big game going on there as well?

Yes, I’ve got a varsity get together again, and will be taking on…It’s the ‘Boer and Brit Challenge’ and our trophy is a potjie pot, and the less said about it the better because the Boere have beaten us 2 years in a row so, we have to challenge them every year. This year I’ve been down to the range and I’m really excited but it’s not looking good. The guy that I asked for some help with one of my lessons said, ‘there’s not a lot I can fix here,’ and he meant it in a bad way.

A lovely tradition and it is wonderful to be able to travel back to SA from time-to-time, and to see things happening there. Not a lot of excitement in the anticipation ahead of the December ANC Elective Conference. I’ve got people in all 3 camps and all 3 are very confident that their candidate is going to win, Nkosazana’s camp believes that if they don’t win they’ll disrupt the operation or the whole conference. The Ramaphosa camp people are cocker hoop at the moment, they think he’s got it in the bag, and the Zweli Mkhize camp believe that he’s the ideal candidate but either way there is going to be changes after December. So, there is a little glimmer on the horizon if one considers the turmoil that the country has been through.

There is and I’m an Afro-optimist and I have been forever. I love Africa, it’s in my blood, but I’m getting to the point where hope is not a strategy for me at the moment, and I do wonder when you look back at the different ways that the ruling party and the opposition managed their regional elections (chair throwing and abusive shenanigans at one) and calm, well-meaning celebration at the other – it’s descending too far into the chaos, and just you saying that to me just absolutely fills me with dread that a non-Zuma orientated next leader just means chaos countrywide. We’ve seen enough of how much that damages what the rest of the world thinks of our country.

Deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

The problem with all of this is that there is so much at stake. The stakes are high. There’s been a lot of pillaging, a lot of corruption, and as happened in Brazil, when this kind of thing gets unravelled – very powerful people go to jail. In Brazil we’ve had the richest businessman in the country, he’s in jail for 12 years. The 3 of the last presidents, well the sitting president hasn’t yet been criminally charged but the previous 2, they’ve either been criminally charged, or charges are being drawn up at the moment. So, Operation Car Wash in Brazil has kind of shown what could happen in SA. If you’re on the wrong side of the fence here, if you’re the one who’s had your hands crossed with silver, you’re going to be doing what you can to make sure that that situation doesn’t happen in SA.

Give me some more background on Brazil. Is that a majority/minority rule or what was the party situation?

The party situation is very similar to SA in that the left-wing party, (Labour Party) is the controlling party. They had an extremely popular president in Lula da Silva. Lula is, himself, being criminally charged for corruption, and then his successor. So, it’s almost like imagine charging Mandela for corruption, it’s something like that as far as the Brazilians are concerned but they’ve had enough. What happened there was that people just took to the streets eventually and they forced the politicians who were not keen to do what they’ve had to do because a lot of them are implicated. They forced them to take a vote and to impeach Rousseff.

There as well, they have a very strong judiciary, as we do in SA so, there are many parallels and not just the fact that both are members of BRICS as well. Brazil is a much bigger country. Of course, it’s got a whole lot more people than SA, I think 3 times as many people as SA has. It has a much bigger economy as well so, what happened there could very well happen in SA, but it just re-emphasises that the stakes are very high, when there’s been such endemic corruption. The bright side of all of this is that the likelihood is, when you start with corruption, and particularly when the rest of the world gets involved and starts following the money.

Yes, that’s been a big factor.

African National Congress (ANC)

Yes, those who might be in trouble just quickly turn state witness. Now, we thought this would happen some time ago when the ANC did its own internal investigation, but it didn’t. They managed to keep a lid on that but this time around there’s just too much. With Gupta Leaks, with the FBI and the British equivalents investigating money laundering. Two of the Gupta nephews are American citizens and they’re deeply implicated in all of this. It happened once before. There was a hotelier from SA called Stanley Tollman, who was on the wrong side of the law. The Americans got a family member and by using the family member, who turned state witness, they had a case against Tollman who never could go back to the USA. I’m not sure they can, and these are eminent people who own the Oyster Box in SA, and I think the Twelve Apostles, and a number of other hotels around the world. All of these things stay on the record and all of these things there’ve been precedents for what the FBI are doing now with the Guptas so, let’s see. You can’t presume someone guilty.

Well let’s hope the right things happen, exactly.

Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but it does look like in 2 scores. The one side, because the international community are getting involved and following the money. The second side, in that we have a president in Brazil that we could have some interesting developments, to say the least, in SA in the near future so, hope springs.

So, one of the things I wanted to talk about is the rise, and rise again of AB de Villiers and Ottis Gibson, and the Proteas.

That’s fabulous stuff, isn’t it?

The fall, which I really need to know the background to because I saw it in the background on a soundless screen. I was watching it in the airport lounge and I was just absolutely gutted for him, but Faf du Plessis looked really sore, with a muscle strain. He left the field in the third ODI. He was batting beautifully in, I think, the mid-90s. AB de Villiers in the middle, he had made 174 off 104 balls, a batting lesson par excellence. I think he showed the world why so many people in SA hold him in such high regard, and as indeed do a lot of cricketers around the world.

Protea’s AB de Villiers. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

And he’s back now, Bob? He’s not leaving again?

He’s back. He’s committed. We’re into the T20s now. I’m really excited about the way the Proteas could go. We’ve had some youngsters come in and play over the last 3 games. We had a fantastic test series. Then Ottis Gibson has now been in charge for these ODIs. We know and covered his pedigree as an international player. He also spent a lot of time in club cricket in SA, then alternate seasons he also played domestically here. He’s coached for the England line-up and has got a tremendous reputation as a people manager, a people person, a team guy. I’m South African so, I can’t avoid it. He is as black as the ace of spades. He’s from the West Indies so, no one can say, ‘this is a guy who is there because of this or because of ability or put a poster in about it.’ I think hopefully, we get to the point where we judge everybody just purely on ability, and this guy will not suffer fools gladly. So, he’s not going to go and say, ‘he’s going to allow that to affect his team.’

I think the Proteas can go from strength-to-strength, and I genuinely believe that his ability as a coach is what will make them all turn around and say, ‘well, my ability as a player is what I’m judged on and nothing else.’ Let’s get all the politics out of the way and let’s just play our hearts out for this beautiful nation of ours. We’ve probably got close to one of the best top 6 batting line-ups, even top 7 in the world. We maybe short of an all-rounder, if you want, but we’ve got guys waiting in the wings who’ve had a couple of ODIs, a couple of tests, and as soon as the performance comes through that he is happy with I think we might see some new faces there. Then we’ve got a bowling and batting line-up that could beat anybody at any stage. So, maybe when AB de Villiers said, ‘I’m going to have a rest. I want to come back and win an ODI World Cup,’ maybe he saw the bigger picture earlier on but delighted for the Proteas that they’re doing so well.

Is that the next assignment, the World Cup, or do we have anyone else between Bangladesh and then?

No, we’ve got India test matches at the end of the year. We’re full on into the season now. Bangladesh is just the start.

Just an appetiser, as it’s turned out.

Absolutely, and Bangladesh have been giant killers of late. They’re doing so well at home against all of the top nations and SA have absolutely wiped the floor with them. They’ve been ruthless in their execution and well praised by the Bangladeshi outfits. SA have played well. Bangladesh haven’t handed this on a plate.

But back to your first love, I hope, rugby.

Yes.

The Springboks are coming here at the end of the year, as always. Have you had a chance to think about that, given that the form after that 57 – 0 loss, has at least moved into a completely different level?

Yes, it has. I think belief plays a big part, I said this to you. I said, ‘that 57 – 0 aberration was…’

But it was an aberration and just go back there. The tactics seemed to be all wonky. We were attacking, and they were scoring.

Yes, it was, and they were scoring.

They were counter attacking and scoring.

For 15 minutes of that game we were in charge. We gave away an intercept. We gave away a charge-down, and then suddenly they were 15 – 0 ahead, and then 20 – 0 ahead, and then suddenly 31 – 0 at halftime.

Picture courtesy of Twitter @AllBlacks

But what happens when you feel you’re on top and you’re 18 – 0 down?

Well, I think you try all the wrong things. I think you chase a game and the All Blacks are delighted. If you’re chasing the game they’ve got pilferers who could steal the ball anywhere. They’ve got counter attackers, and we’ve seen it, who can run from anywhere. We saw it in CT against us and we saw it against the Australians. I really think that we’ve got the same old problems, but we’ve got some of the same old glimmers of hope. We’ve got solid players who I think are going to come over for me and for me, Allister Coetzee should be almost not even looking at the Currie Cup. He doesn’t need new talent right now. He’s got some young, strong, dynamic players. He needs that team together as much as possible. He’s got a 4-match series over here. It’s Italy, France, Wales, and Ireland and they’re all strong at the moment. They’re going to be difficult opponents. We saw with Italy last year. We lost to them for the first time in the history of the game, but it was horribilis for South African sport and in particular, SA rugby. So, I’m really looking forward to the tour. I’m hoping to get up to Ireland to watch. I’m not doing much commentary around it.

How does that work because sometimes you’re on Sky here in the UK and sometimes you aren’t?

Yes, literally I freelance. I’m a bit naughty. If it’s a great game in a part of the world I want to be at then I either chase it or say, ‘yes,’ if they get hold of me. I don’t have the privilege of being able to get away every weekend. Sometimes when you have to say, ‘no,’ too many times then it would affect a contract or something so, I’ve said, ‘freelance basis only,’ which means I can work in Sevens, I can work in rugby, and I can work in juniors and I really enjoy that. I don’t want to be the guy for 20 years now, who follows the Springboks around the world and commentates on them only. Matt Pearce, my co-commentator, is highly skilled. I think he could commentate for any network in the world. He’s an outstanding commentator of the game but he’s got to hold together that and another job because there’s not necessarily that much work going around so, I’ve tried to pull myself out of that and I do it because I love the game and not because I need to commentate on the weekends.

That’s always good, if you’re able to do it because you’re passionate about it.

Absolutely.

You’re also passionate about business in the last couple of weeks, you’ve been on both sides of the world. What’s going on?

A couple of things. We’re doing some due diligences on a business and I told you that all our venture capital stuff had done well. I’m so proud of the team, Keet van Zyl, and Andre Bohmert have taken over the management of Knife Capital, which is one of SAs pre-eminent venture capital firms. All of these spaces now, incubators and all of those kinds of names. I think it’s a nurturing ground for people who’ve got either a great business idea or great business acumen and a number of business ideas, and have started to get traction. They really help them go from juniors to seniors so, I was back in SA with them on, (1) marking and looking at the year gone, of all the venture capital businesses in our program, and then, (2) on a DD for another business so, just keeping busy. I’m trying to sharpen the mind so to speak. I think you do that more with in practice learning and I’ve got such quality people around me that even a bumbling old rugby player can at least be there and learn a bit. So, a lot of travel at the moment because some of these businesses are SA ideas with international production facilities. I’ve done some factory visits, done some IP law short courses because I had to understand some process that we had to go through with some of them so, lots of fun things.

Hong Kong, Oslo, Scandinavia – there was a movie some years ago, ‘If it’s Wednesday it must be Belgium.’ I sometimes feel like that with you, when I call you. Bob, the sport side is looking exciting for SA, particularly as far as the cricket is concerned, and with the rugby at the end of the year. If, however the Springboks were to have played England, they aren’t as you’ve explained on the end of year tour, how would you rate their chances?

To be honest, I think England…I would say, as good as even. I think maybe England would, and let’s call it percentages so, England maybe 55:45. I wouldn’t say that this is a 2:1 and insurmountable or 3:1 insurmountable. Odds are I think Eddie Jones is very organised. I do think he’s got one eye firmly on the All Blacks and the other eye firmly on the World Cup in Japan. He’s building a squad and growing the squad. I listened to some comments from him the other day and he’s a very together coach, and some lovely leadership. He leads with that fantastic 80/20 mindset where he’s not going to dictate to you what you do. He’s going to help you become a player, who can make the right decision as to what to do. For me, as a young player, what a privilege to work with someone like that.

File Photo: England head coach Eddie Jones poses at Twickenham. Action Images via Reuters / Henry Browne
Livepic.

Jake White saw it in Eddie, they worked together, and he speaks about team meetings. No team meeting is longer than 15 minutes and he never covers more than 3 points. One of the journos cracked, ‘well, is that because it’s rugby players?’ He said, ‘mate, you wouldn’t survive in here. These are smart guys making smart decisions about how to win a game in a tiny, high intensity, decision making processes over 80 minutes.’ They’ve become specialists at that, and I thought that was great. I want to hear that kind of talk out of SA. I’ve always said, I’m not worried about the physical side of SA rugby. We’ve got bully beef and biltong players from here to kingdom come but hopefully, Brendan Venter and what he’s brought to the team has helped on the decision-making side. I know the guys at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport, and SA Rugby are working together. Neil de Kock, who was captain of Saracens, has gone back and spending time there, and he was huge in terms of the Saracens’ culture. So, all of that would weigh in. I think they would probably marginally be a better side than us at the moment, but that’s okay.

We’ve got to get Neil de Kock on our little program.

Oh, I’d love to. Neil is a wonderful guy. He actually delivers, and look, I haven’t caught up with him for 2 or 3 months now, but he delivers a fantastic pitch to corporates about the Saracens’ way, and I’m hoping he’s refining that and doing that in SA. Like I said, I’ll be out there shortly so, I’ll make contact and maybe we can have a chat to him.

Yes, and get him to come and talk to the BizNews Club. We’ve got that in the pipeline, somewhere down the road, the Saracens’ way.

We’ve got all the speakers. We’ve got all the people who want to come along. We just need to put it in the diary, very exciting.

Let’s close off with the game on Saturday, the Currie Cup Final. Clearly, your heart is with Western Province. Your head?

Yes look, the Sharks have had a great season – they were top of the log, they were a side that I felt were starting to be unbeatable. Then Western Province actually, showed some resilience after a poorer start than they would have liked. I think there’s great talent on both sides. It’s an amazing game, if you think about the fact that Robert du Preez has got 3 sons involved in this clash and he’s the coach of one the teams. This is a guy that I grew up watching rugby. Sure, injuries play a part and all your sons are not going to play all the time, etc. But one of them is in the opposition team to the team that he coaches, with his other sons playing so, I’m fascinated by that clash, let’s see what happens. His namesake and older son, Robert, is a flyhalf and has had a tremendous season for Western Province. He’s a very creative player and he could probably play fullback as well, maybe even inside centre but he’s big and strong. He doesn’t shirk any defence and he’s been a bedrock for Western Province. So, I think we’re going to see a lot.

Dillan Leyds of the Stormers. (Photo by Carl Fourie/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

I like Huw Jones, the Scottish international, who goes back and plays Currie Cup Rugby in SA and has played some Super Rugby. For me, he’s very exciting, a good counter attacker. Dillyn Leyds who’s been amazing at Springbok level. He’s just been voted player of the year for Western Province so, we’re not short on talent and I think the good thing will be is that a lot of these guys know that to get into the reckoning for the Springboks they need to have a cracking game and Allister Coetzee has always promised that when South Africans are beating South Africans on skill and hard work they will be looked at for the Springboks. This will be a fantastic game and I look forward to it.

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