André Pretorius might be carving a successful coaching career for himself with NWU in the FNB Varsity Cup and the Leopards provincial team, but he's still got a fair way to go to match – or surpass – his playing honours.
The 40-year-old, nicknamed 'Petoors', racked up more more than 1 500 first-class points tand played in 31 Tests for the Springboks.
Easily the crowning glory for the former flyhalf, was being part of Jake White’s Springboks who captured the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France.
With the World Cup kicking off in Japan in about a month’s time, Pretorius shared some of his memories with nwu.ac.za.
How did it feel when Jake White included you in his 2007 World Cup group?
I was very relieved, because my injuries had kept me off the field quite a lot in the previous year. I had almost started losing hope, but I put in the hard work and thanks to lots support I was able to make it.
Your performance against England in 2006 that included four drop goals probably played a major role in your inclusion? (South Africa’s 25-14 victory was their first over England after eight consecutive defeats.)
Viewed in the bigger context, I think so, yes. In the previous test against England, Butch (James) was winning the test for us, but I lost it for us when I replaced him after he had been injured. In the next test I took the gap and showed Jake that I had the ability to get back up after a setback.
Do you still think it was your best performance in a Springbok jersey?
Yes, I think so. There was something of everything in that performance. I think it was my most accomplished performance yet.
Who were among the most 'interesting' characters in the 2007 team?
Schalk Burger (he laughs immediately) and Jaque Fourie. Jaque managed to make every outing very enjoyable. And CJ van der Linde too!
Tell us more about captain John Smit’s leadership?
It is difficult to define John Smit’s leadership in words. Everything – from how he could handle criticism to how he pulled a team together – he was the best captain under whom I’ve ever played.
Do you see some of those qualities in the current Bok captain Siya Kolisi?
I like what I have seen of Siya so far a lot. I think in the long term he will become a leader who will be highly respected.
Who were your most formidable opponents?
Tana Umaga and Ma’a Nonu. Defending in their channel was a tough job. And Jonny Wilkinson – he was able to do everything. He defended well and tactically he was brilliant.
Who was the most talented player you have ever seen on the field?
He may not have reached his full potential, but that was James O’Connor. When I was with the Force I saw that he could do absolutely everything on a field. In South Africa, Damian Willemse reminds me a lot of him.
What is your advice to the Boks in the coming World Cup?
That’s difficult. Firstly, we have a plan under Rassie Erasmus that clearly works very well. So, I would say the players and coaching team should not listen too much to the media and critics. They should remain in their bubble and play for each other rather than for the critics.
How would you describe the pressure in the run-up to the World Cup?
You are much more excited than nervous. No game has been played yet, the playoffs are a long way away and the coaches are testing combinations. Later it becomes more intense, but now it is still a balancing game.
Our first match is against New Zealand. What do you think are our chances?
I think they are very good. I would prefer playing against them first rather than later. I like the fact that Rassie Erasmus thinks out of the box and I believe he will pull a few new tricks from his hat that we have never seen before.
Finally, what was your favourite game in a Springbok jersey?
The final of the 2007 World Cup tournament, although I didn’t play even a single minute of that. That was the highlight of an unforgettable tournament.
Interview reproduced from nwu.ac.za