We caught up with South African number 8, Pierre Spies for a Planet Sport exclusive. After a recent announcement to retire, we spoke to the 32-year-old about his future plans and we look back on his memorable moments! Read the transcript below:
Pierre, where did your love for the game of rugby come from?
“In South Africa Rugby is a big sport so when you are young you want to play, my dad also played rugby for the Bulls so we grew up with it. We had a rugby ball at home and in the backyard we would act like we were running over guys and scoring tries. That’s where the love came from and I basically started when I was eight years old.”
You went to school with a few buddies who have now gone on to be greats in world sport, tell us about those guys!
"I come from a boys’ school in Pretoria and I know some proper cricketers, golfers and a well-renowned pianist. AD De Villiers was a year ahead of me and he used to play fly half, Faf Du Plessis also, who plays for the Proteas, Heino Kuhn and many good cricketers. It’s great to be part of a school with some great sports people coming out of it.”
“Absolutely, if you are shooting at a dream then the pinnacle is where you want to be. What’s my goal? 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 and was part of great teams. It was just an amazing journey for me.”
You recently announced your retirement from pro rugby, talk us through that process? What drove that decision?
“Well, things don’t always work out the way that you planned, I was planning on retiring after the two years left on my contract but when we finished the season I went about praying and God told me that it was my time. So I made the decision to finish my career and prepare for the next part. I think everyone reaches this moment in different ways, for me the moment I made up my mind it was settled in my heart. I can look back on my career with fulfilment and joy.”
When rugby is all that you’ve known for so long, is the prospect of ‘retirement’ from it, scary? It must become your identity somewhat.
“It does but that’s where I have been quite intentional, you have to make sure that it doesn’t become your identity even though people identify you as that. I was thinking about the day that I would retire a lot and how you want to be remembered, what kind of person you want to be. Something that I also applied in my life was having friends outside of the game which keeps you in touch with normal life.”
You often speak publicly about your faith in Jesus, what was missing in your life, to make you think that you needed to put your faith in something more?
“I was a young man with a very promising future, but I was living a life of my own, going about it how I wanted and not being focussed. After a lot of partying I reached a point where my conscience started eating me up because I knew the way that I was living wasn’t right. A friend invited me to church and it was a moment 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 and not for myself. My life was never the same again, he completely turned my life around and gave me fulfilment which is something that sport and partying could not give me.”
People may say well the only reason you believe that there’s a God is because you were told to think that growing up, what would you say to that?
“Your parents, whether you believe in something or not, are laying a foundation in your life, so if you are a Christian your parents will lay a Christian foundation, if you are a Muslim or if you believe nothing, you parents are still laying a foundation. But there comes a point in your life where you have to decide for yourself, what you want to believe and what kind of world view you have. For me, that day arrived when I was twenty years old, there had been some foundations laid by my parents but that didn’t make me a Christian. It was the day I decided for myself, not for my friends or my family.”