Pierre Spies will hope his 50th Test for the Springboks against England in Port Elizabeth on Saturday will have a more favourable result than his 2006 debut in the 49-0 thrashing by the Wallabies in Brisbane.
He has since his debut grown into one of South Africa’s regulars but his journey to his half-ton has been anything but smooth.
“I am very grateful and honoured to the players I’ve played for and the coaches I have played under,” said Spies.
Within a year of making his debut in the Green-and-Gold, Spies established himself as the country’s leading eigthman.
His selection for the 2007 World Cup squad, however, was dealt a blow with his diagnosis of a potentially life-threatening blood disease.
With his dream of competing in the World Cup in France shattered, the player focused his attention on making a return to the rugby field.
“It definitely went through my head that there would not be an opportunity to play rugby again, not even thinking of the Springboks,” he said.
“It makes it so much more special and I think if you reach the point where you are now you view every Test you play in as special.
“Every time you run out for your country you realise even more what it means for your country and to you as a rugby player.”
Spies made his return to the Springbok side in 2008 against Wales during the June internationals.
While Spies enjoyed a lot of praise for his ball-carrying ability and freakish speed, he has in recent years come under mounting criticism for his dwindling form.
True to his fighting spirit, Spies has found his straps this year and he has made a significant impact in South Africa’s first two Tests against England.
“It has been an amazing journey and if you look back at it I guess that is the story of Springbok rugby,” said Spies.
“Coming from a start in my debut of 49-0 which is really something you will never forget.
“Coming through the British and Irish Lions win and we’ve won a Tri-Nations and I missed out on the World Cup.
“It is a lot of emotions and a lot of things that go through your head but where I am now is just a place of gratitude.”
Spies is also valued as a leader within the Bok set-up and with the departure of players such as former captain John Smit and vice-captain Victor Matfield he had to fulfil the role of senior player.
“My roles have definitely changed and at this stage I am just supporting Jean de Villiers and Bizzy 1/8Bismarck du Plessis 3/8 in the decisions we make and help to organise our structures, our defence and lineouts,” said Spies.
“In that sense I really enjoy not having that responsibility of being captain but really fulfilling that role of helping leading this team.”
Spies reiterated that the new-look Springbok team have shifted their goal posts by setting extraordinary targets.
“I don’t think we are focusing on the white-wash but we’ve got high standards and we want to win three out of three,” he said.
“We want to win all our Tests we play in South Africa... that is one of our goals.
“That is the focus for the week and England is going to be well prepared. They had two losses now and they might think they are in with a chance for the last one.
“We've got to be well prepared for this weekend and then make sure we fire on all cylinders.” – Sapa