Sport24 asked: What have you made of the South African flavour in France?
Scott Spedding: Over and above the influence South African-born players have had on the field for France over the years, Fabien Galthie has been very clever in terms of who he has brought in on a coaching front. He has foreign expertise in the form of Vlok Cilliers as kicking coach and Shaun Edwards as defence coach. In terms of the former, Les Bleus are intelligent in the way they go about their kicking, exit at the right time and often use the cross-kick to get out of sticky situations. They are definitely calculated in their kicking, which I like to see as I don’t enjoy sides just kicking it away.
Sport24 asked: What’s your opinion on Eben Etzebeth’s move to the Sharks?
Scott Spedding: Etzebeth will add massive value to an already strong Sharks side when he joins from Toulon in July. In the games Etzebeth has played in France, he has been very good and is a crowd favourite because the French love big, physical guys. Etzebeth is not the first player Toulon has seemed to have had an issue with, in terms of not being available for periods of the season owing to international duty, and certainly won’t be the last. In France, they have not only been frustrated with Etzebeth but with a few other internationals as well in terms of a lack of playing time. However, for me, it beggars belief because when you sign a player like Etzebeth or any other top international for that matter you know what’s coming with that. The 30-year-old lock is still in the prime of his career and is going to be playing for his country, so his club time will be limited. As a club president, you can sort of calculate how much time he’s going to be there for, so I’m not sure why he’s only now surprised that Etzebeth is away for parts of the year. The same will apply to Cheslin Kolbe.
Sport24 asked: Your take on Warrick Gelant heading in the opposite direction?
Scott Spedding: Now that I’m finished playing it’s easier to talk about because there has always been a taboo about moving for money. However, Gelant’s decision to swap the Stormers for Racing 92 won’t only be about money and it will be a great experience for him to play with some of those players. Racing boasts a great backline and career-wise, I think it’s a good move for the 26-year-old from Knysna. A rugby career is short and when you get offered almost seven times your salary and are going to be able to improve yourself in your trade, fair play to you. It’s obviously unfortunate for South African rugby when top-quality players move abroad but I admire the way in which Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber have handled the overseas players. They have been intelligent about it and have seen that their strategy of selecting foreign-based players has worked in the past. It opens up the door to a guy like Gelant who knows that even if he goes and plays abroad, he’s not going to be forgotten. I think Gelant has a lot of potentials and it has been unfortunate he hasn’t been getting as much game time at the Stormers as he could. A player like him needs to be playing as much as possible because the more you play, the more consistent you become. Paying that sort of money, (Gelant has reportedly been offered a contract of R7.7-million per annum) I’m pretty sure Racing will want to play him as often as possible and perform. That is going to put him under pressure but also give him opportunities to play consistently, which is positive for his development.
Sport24 asked: Is Willie le Roux still the answer for South Africa at fullback?
Scott Spedding: I know the Le Roux subject can be a bit polarising in South Africa. I think Willie would be the first to say that he would like to be more consistent when it comes to basic fullback play – namely under the high ball and his kicking game. He just needs to get those basics right because we have seen enough footage that the Springbok management has put out in terms of how much he adds in value. You can’t deny his creative abilities but he needs to be more consistent in terms of the basics of fullback play. I have no doubt Willie will get back but there are players knocking at the door. I would like to have seen Aphelele Fassi get more of an opportunity on the end-of-year tour in 2021. I’m also a big fan of Kolbe and I think he’s a fantastic fullback. With the wing options we’ve got in South Africa, it might not be a bad option to move him to fullback. It’s not about neglecting Le Roux or throwing him away. The best thing for him may be to reset and have competition. There are good options for South Africa’s back three and they just need to be well-calculated. Depending on the opponents and conditions, they could mix and match their back three.
Sport24 asked: Is there still hope for forgotten 13-Test wing Aphiwe Dyantyi?
Scott Spedding: I remember him and he was extremely excited. I was very disappointed to see that he tested positive for a banned substance just before the 2019 World Cup. He was really the frontrunner in terms of the wings and it was heartbreaking to see that happen. I don’t know the ins and outs of the story but I’m sure there is a lot of regret and lessons learned. I’m a big believer in second chances. It won’t be easy for him to find that form again, having sat out for so long, but if he’s determined enough and someone gives him a chance to play at the provincial level, he can add his name to the mix. After completing his four-year ban, I’m sure that someone will take a chance on him and see if he can recapture his previous form. It could end up paying dividends for a club that takes that chance because he’s a proven finisher… In France, there is a bit of a stigma that quite a lot of doping goes on in South African rugby. I’m not saying that there aren’t isolated instances of players getting caught up on the wrong stuff but I don’t believe there are larger schemes at play led by clubs or coaches. I might be wrong but during my time in rugby, I never saw doping that was calculated by a club or coach. However, it’s extremely sad to hear rumours of doping at the schoolboy level. Some of my best rugby memories are from my time as a schoolboy in South Africa. These days, schoolboy rugby has become a pressurised environment and I would hate to put my son in that sort of position so that he can perform. If doping is the case, I’d hope that SA Rugby and the authorities clamp down on it because I would want my son, who is six now, to enjoy the game as much as I did.
Sport24 asked: Was Siya Kolisi a worthy SA Rugby Player of the Year winner?
Scott Spedding: It was no surprise to me that he won the award. Etzebeth or a few other candidates could also easily have got it but after the World Cup, you can only imagine how tough it would have been for a guy like Kolisi to try to get himself back up. You build yourself up to that summit of performance and then have to handle the euphoria of winning the World Cup and the accompanying commitments. I know he came under a bit of criticism for his performances following the World Cup but I think it was only normal that there was a dip. The way he came back and led last year was exemplary, as were his individual performances. The way he tackled and chased kicks rubbed off on his teammates. As players, we all know when someone is under pressure but the way he took charge and led from the front was extremely inspirational. He is not only inspirational in the context of the country but on the field, he is always leading by example and there is never a lack of effort from him.