The former All Blacks star and Rugby World Cup’s all-time top scorer speaks out
What are you up to at the moment? I’m just enjoying fatherhood right now as my partner gave birth a few weeks ago. I’m still training but I’m about to start doing a bit of track, to get back to running and then moving into bodybuilding as well.
So you reckon you might come back to rugby? It’s all about how the body reacts to the training. But my body is feeling strong and holding up to the punishment I’m giving it. I wouldn’t rule that out at the moment at all.
What was it like being the first rugby player to become an international star? I guess the hardest part was that I didn’t have anyone else to turn to because it had never happened to anyone else. I had older heads around to guide me, but there was no one who could prepare me for what was going to happen down the line.
There was a bit of Lomu-fever… Yeah, it was a bit mad. A week before the ’95 World Cup, I could walk into the mall in Johannesburg and people would say maybe ‘Hi’ or something. Then after that semi-final against England I just got mobbed. All over the place.
What do you make of sevens? It’s short, it’s explosive and you never know who’s going to win. If you look at the weeks running up to the World Cup, Kenya knocked over South Africa and New Zealand, then you’ve got Argentina who knocked over England in the final in San Diego.
So it’s broken a deadlock of domination from some of the very famous teams like South Africa and New Zealand? It’s definitely broken a deadlock. It’s given the physically smaller-built nations like China and Japan the chance to win.
What does the game mean to younger players? Sevens is a great launching pad for anyone who wants to take up a professional career and an open game that is good for getting recognised.
What do you think about the mass of players moving overseas as the game becomes more professional? With soccer, you’re away from home for a night, but in rugby you’re away for weeks on end. If you’ve got a young family the last thing you want is to be away from them. They get a substantially different amount of money but all that time away from your family. I’ve known some come home from tours and their kids are pulling on mum’s dress and saying ‘Who’s that, Mum?’ I’m away for a few days and I’m feeling like that now.
How do you reckon the All Blacks will get on in the 2010 World Cup? It better go well because they’re at home! I think they’ll do OK. It’s their home yard and the pressure of that always pushes them to deliver.
Have you been out to Dubai before? I actually played in Dubai when I was 15, in a tournament among the expat teams, like the Wafi guys. It’s an amazing place. If you get bored here, mate, you’ll never be entertained anywhere else in the world.