JOHANNESBURG – When Ross Cronje runs out for the Springboks for the first time Saturday he won’t only be representing his country and trying to put a smile on the faces of rugby fans ... he’ll be doing it to give his brother Guy a smile, too.
Rugby fans will know that Ross is a twin and that his brother, Guy, 27, were promising stars at the Sharks before they left Durban to play for the Lions in 2011.
They slowly worked their way into the team and started a few games together at scrumhalf (Ross) and flyhalf (Guy) before in 2015 Guy’s world was turned upside down when he was diagnosed with melanoma.
“I had the cancer cut out in early February of 2015 but five months later it was back and this time it was stage three,” recalls Guy.
“I had an operation on my left leg and they took out some glands which meant the end of my rugby career ... any injury wouldn’t have been able to heal properly and that would have been dangerous.
“I was living in Durban at that stage and underwent treatment for a year with a new drug and last August I got the all-clear. It’s fantastic.”
Guy got married two weeks ago; on the same day the Lions faced the Southern Kings in their final Super Rugby game before this month’s June international break. It was an emotional day for the Cronje family and it’ll be an emotional day again on Saturday when Ross runs out for the Boks for the first time.
“It was hard giving up the game, it was my passion, like it is for Ross. It was a treat playing with him,” said Guy on Friday. “I couldn’t be happier for him, it’s amazing he’s finally got to this stage.”
Indeed, Ross didn’t have it easy when he came to the Lions and in recent years has had to rotate with Faf de Klerk for a starting place. He says that competition was good for him.
“Yes, it’s been a long journey to get to here, but I think I’m ready for this step now,” he said ahead of Saturday’s match against France in Pretoria.
“Coach Akies (Johan Ackermann) believed in rotating me and Faf but I believe I made the most of those starts when they came my way ... especially in the big games.”
Guy said he always knew his brother would become a Bok one day. “We played together in the national U-19 final for the Sharks in 2008 and afterwards I said to him he is going to be the next Springbok scrumhalf. It took a lot longer than I thought it would, but here we are now. I’m so proud of him.
“He could easily have given up on his dream and looked to go overseas, like so many other players, but he stuck it out and he’s got his reward. He said to me last year he wanted to give it one more go ... it’s amazing. It’s great to see that passion,” said Guy, who, incidentally, played three Tests for Zimbabwe in the Africa Cup in 2014 after qualifying through his grandparents. It is believed Zimbabwe were also chasing after Ross recently.
When asked if he’d be thinking about his brother Guy on Saturday when he runs out, Ross got a little emotional. “My sister, Robyn, always sends me a message before a game and says, ‘play for two’.”
Guy said he and his family would be at Loftus on Saturday cheering Ross on. “We’ll all be there. I’ll give him a call tonight (FRI night) and just tell him to enjoy himself and play like he always does.”