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Egon fired up for trek to cup glory

Sport

If the good folk at Voortrekker High are still in the dark about which teenage terrorist ran riot with a fire extinguisher in their hallowed halls several years ago, Egon Seconds finally came clean this week.

The only reason he wasn't caught, he says, is that he issued threats to fellow pupils about the consequences of being snitches!

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But after a few hundred lashes from teachers eager to nudge him onto the straight and narrow, Egon turned his attention to threatening opposition try-lines. It's something the Western Province wing has done remarkably well, as the statistic of 48 touchdowns in 47 matches testifies.

After that five-try haul against Griquas, your tries-to-games percentage is above 100 again. How long can you keep it up?

As long as possible! But it doesn't really matter how many tries you score, as long as the team wins. If my record can remain at over 100 percent in the process, I'd be pretty chuffed, though!

You equalled Carel du Plessis's WP record of five tries in a match. Were you aware of this?

Not at all. After you score your third try, you usually end up on the outskirts in the game, but I was fortunate to be at the right place at the right time. It was one of those things that, when I ran in for my last try, I could not believe it was the fifth.

Has Carel said anything to you?

No, not yet. If someone breaks or equals your record, you are pretty quiet about it because you wanted to keep it for a long time!

Would you say the coach is a little sour?

(Laughs) I think he's happy that it's another wing that equalled the record!

What role did he play in your development?

He has helped me a lot, especially because I am a wing. I can't put a value on the little things he has taught me about defence and attack. He is so technical that he tells you exactly which lines to run and makes you feel comfortable on attack and defence.

Did you ever see any of the games in which he played?

Just glimpses of a few of his tries on tape. He was a bit before my time. I am aware of the aura around him, though. Once when we were overseas with the Stormers, the people there were referring to him as the Prince of Wings. If you are recognised internationally like that, you really made your mark on rugby. He is very down to earth. Often players are afraid to talk to their coaches. But you can talk to Carel as if he is one of the players. He has an open-door policy and is always open to suggestions.

Who were your boyhood idols?

From the time I grew up until now it has been Chester Williams. But the player who is playing now who I look up to a lot is Tana Umaga.

So that's why the dreadlocks are still intact?

Yes, I'm still keeping them! When I started playing rugby, he also played wing. You want to play like a certain player one day and he was one of them.

Did he inspire the dreadlocks?

Yes.

So it will stay, even if he's getting slow?

(Laughs) It will have to stay!

Because the girls dig it or because of him?

(Laughs) I think more because of him, but the girls help! People will say "I know Egon, the one with the dreadlocks"!

Do you think Tana is over the hill?

He is one of those players like Corné Krige - granted they are approaching the end of their careers - that him being on the field gives you the confidence which elevates you to the realms of a different player. He must just be there with you. That brings the best out of you.

Have you ever spoken to him?

Yes, I played Super 12 against him in Wellington last year. He almost broke my ribs, but I am happy that it was him rather than anybody else!

Did you tell him that you used to look up to him?

Yes, and he was very taken by it, but in the professional game, even though I used to look up to him. I have respect for him on the field. It was a privilege to play against him.

Apparently he's a smashing bloke. Did you experience it that way?

Tana is a very nice guy. I met his child as well and he's a family man. It's nice to see that he's so down to earth and not bigger than the game.

Your defence is often pointed to as a weakness. What is your view on that?

I always said in the past that when you are on the wing, you don't defend that often and the times that you have to defend, it stands out when you slip. But it's something I have worked on and I think this year it has been better. It's also about the players knowing one another and how they defend in a system.

Do you think you can be as prolific a try-scorer at Super 12 level? Is it a big step up?

It is a big step, but when you get there, you have to be able to do the job. It's not a nice thing to be classified only as a Currie Cup player. When the chance comes to play in the Super 12, I will definitely make the most of it. I'd like to carry my Currie Cup record into the Super 12. You do carry your confidence over. I am looking forward a lot to playing in the Super 12 next year.

Does Carel's style as head coach suit you better than Gert Smal's?

When Gert was the coach, there were other players in the mix and it also depends on what stage you are - whether you're in form or not. There are a lot of factors at play. But with Carel coaching in the Currie Cup and players knowing one another, it will be an advantage to have the same unit in next year's Super 12.

What do you think of the plan for a Super 14? Should they have brought a Pacific Islands team into the mix?

With the Pacific Islands that did so well, that would have been a good thing. The Super 14 makes the season even longer when the big bosses and coaches are already complaining that more rest is needed. Next year we're back to a 14-team Currie Cup, which will also lengthens the season. Players will just have to be managed. But it will provide a lot of opportunities for young players.

If you could play any Test for South Africa, who would the opponents be and where would it be played?

I'd love to play against New Zealand at Newlands.

Who is the wing you'd like to beat for the winning try?

Definitely Joe Rokocoko. Everybody aspires to the record he has with so many tries in so few Tests. I think it's 26 in 19 - and that is international rugby.

Which of your tries this year has been your favourite?

The one against the Sharks was very special. Even though we lost the game, they are one team I like scoring against because they are big rivals of ours.

Who is the most intimidating opponent you have faced?

In the Super 12 my first game for the Stormers was against the Hurricanes in Wellington. It was Jonah Lomu's first game back and I played opposite him. As a young player, knowing that the big fella is making his comeback and is motivated, it's very intimidating because you know about his reputation for running over people. He didn't score, so I think I did my job!

Do you feel sorry for him in his present state?

Yes. He's such a big name in world rugby. What happened to him and that he won't be able to play rugby again is sad.

Who is the smartest wing around?

I don't know so much about smart, but it has to be Joe Rokocoko. That kind of strike rate speaks for itself.

Is he the most complete wing in world rugby?

He is very good, but I'd put Lote Tuqiri above him as a complete player. His strike rate may not be as good, but he's a strong runner and good defender. He's the best all-round wing I can think of.

Is Voortrekker High proud of you?

Yes, I was there last week. They have one of my Stormers jerseys with a photograph in the entrance hall. They are very proud of it. It's a big motivation for other players there to see that there is a somebody at such a high level who came from the school. It's always a privilege for me to go back. The pupils look up to you and teachers can't believe you sat in their classroom a few years ago.

Are there still a few teachers there who dished out corporal punishment to you?

There are a few! (Laughs) I won't say anything, but there are a few who gave me a few nudges in the right direction! I think it did me some good. It definitely made me harder!

Were you a naughty boy?

For the first few years, yes. I was a bit of a problem child but, as you get closer to matric, you begin to calm down.

What was the naughtiest thing you ever did?

I hope this doesn't get back to the school, but I was one of the guys who pulled a fire extinguisher in the hallway and that makes a huge mess. I threatened the pupils into saying it wasn't me. Until this day nobody knew who it had been. Now it's finally out in the open! I hope they don't call me back for it. Fortunately corporal punishment is illegal now! They always picked on me and wanted to give me hidings, but when I think about it, they had good reason!

What does a guy with dreadlocks feel about being called a Voortrekker?

(Laughs) At school they had big issues about boys with long hair, so I shaved everything off. After school I thought to myself I no longer wanted to be prescribed to, so I will grow my hair. That is where it started, and with Tana who had it and me playing rugby, it was opportune to let it grow. Right now you would have to force me to shave off my hair.

Did you count the lashes you got at school?

(Laughs) No, there were so many. It was every day!

Your mom took you out of Salt River High to send you to Voortrekker, did she?

Yes, it was for discipline more than anything else. At that stage Salt River High was one of the problem schools. We weren't even at school for half the year.

Do you see it as a privilege to be a role model for children?

Yes, it comes with the territory of what you do. It's a big privilege to be someone who children look up to and live my life as an example. You can't ask for anything better.

Does it not put a lot of pressure on you?

It definitely puts pressure on you, but you can manage it.

Obviously if people see you have a big night out, it will be an issue, though.

Anybody will have an issue if they see a sportsman drink a lot, even though a lot of guys take the view that they are only human. I think you must be careful when and where you do things like that. Some people embarrass themselves when they have had a lot to drink, and that is where your friends come in. They can lead you.

Do players drink or are they very professional?

There are many players who take a beer or two, but when there are matches coming up, the players don't do it. After a match it's fair enough to have one or two.

Originally you wanted to be a soccer player. Do you watch footy?

Yes, I have been an Arsenal supporter for a number of years. I go and watch soccer at Rygersdal every Tuesday. A lot of my friends play for them. I support them because they were always there for me. On weekends when WP don't play, then we watch soccer.

I assume your favourite player is Thierry Henry.

Definitely. I have big photographs of him in my car and my room.

What do you think of Wayne Rooney?

He's going to be just as good. What makes those guys special is that even though people know how good they are, they keep on performing.

What do you do to break away from rugby?

Stef, to be honest with you, I am a very lazy person. Before this interview when they phoned me, I was lying sleeping at home. Every chance that I get I relax at home. My one cousin is a DJ. He is in the Cape every weekend and if I feel like going out, I will go where he is playing. I love entertaining and always have people over at my home on weekends. Rob Linde and Pieter Dixon visit me at home. It's nice to have team-mates over and get to know the side of them away from the game.

Describe your personality.

I am outgoing, definitely spontaneous, but very goal-orientated.

What are your goals?

I didn't play Super 12 this year, so that was a disappointment for me. My goal in the Currie Cup was to have a good season after a bad start. At the moment it's going well, but there is hard work ahead. You don't want to be unrealistic, so, when you get there, you assess where you are, then set new goals.

If there is one thing you could change in rugby, what would it be?

I wouldn't want to swap the oval ball for a round one!

Personally I wouldn't like to change anything about the game.

I see rugby as entertainment. We are entertainers. The thousands of people who come here don't know what goes on behind the scenes. They want to be entertained. That is where I see a lot of pressure on players. But we choose what we do and it's part of the package. I am just very glad that I chose this route. When I started playing rugby, it became a passion of mine so quickly that I completely forgot about soccer. It was definitely my main goal to do well in rugby.

When you started, it must have been mostly white kids playing. Was it difficult to fit in?

I don't think it was difficult to adapt, but it was difficult to make the first team. But if you're a good player, you eventually have to get picked.

Did the players make it difficult for you?

I wouldn't say that. We put the pressure on ourselves with the perception that it was only a white sport at that stage. Then you end up afraid of going out and making a difference. But I think you must take the initiative to do that.

Why will you score a hat-trick against the Lions on Saturday?

(Laughs) I think I will score a hat-trick to get my strike rate up. Joe Rokocoko is a little too far ahead of me.

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