Boomgaard's Lions tales: From Buys' appetite to Jantjies' ethic

By Jacques van der Westhuyzen Time of article published Apr 30, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG: Lions team manager Mustapha Boomgaard is one of Super Rugby’s longest-serving management members.

Boomgaard has overseen over 340 Currie Cup and Super Rugby games since becoming Lions team manager in 2008. He has experienced the highs and lows of the Joburg-based team and was there when the Lions were relegated from Super Rugby in 2013 and when they played in three successive finals from 2016.

He spent nearly an hour chatting to IOL Sport rugby writer Jacques van der Westhuyzen about some of his experiences of the last 12 years and also revealed some “secrets” about the men who’ve donned the famous red and white jersey.

Q: Who stands out as the funniest guy you’ve seen in Lions colours; the biggest prankster perhaps?

A: Prop Gert Muller (who played for the Lions between 2008 and 2010) is the funniest guy I’ve met. He is hilarious he has the driest sense of humour and tells the best jokes. I must add that Kwagga Smith is a real prankster and he’s caught many of us out over the years.

Q: Who takes the most care with their appearance?

A: If you know and follow Courtnall Skosan on social media you’ll know he takes great pride in how he looks. Being in good shape is also important to him.

Mustapha Boomgaard with team physiotherapist Preven Appalsamy and assistant team manager Johane Singwane in Sydney.

Q: Who’s the worst traveller?

A: Hooker Robbie Coetzee. If you end up sitting next to him on a plane you know you’re not going to get any rest; he talks non-stop.

Q: And the most eager tourist?

A: Again, Coetzee. On an off-day on tour he’ll pack his back-pack and set off, exploring the city, and doing things few others do. It’s why he was always called “Tommy the tourist” by his teammates.

Q: Which player can’t go without their phone?

A: (Former Lions lock) Lourens Erasmus was glued to his phone. The only time he wasn’t fiddling with his phone was when he was training and playing; he was virtually on it 24-7.

Q: Who takes the longest in the mornings to get going?

A: Without a doubt (former Lions player) Ruan Combrinck. He loves his sleep and he’d push it until the very last minute before getting up and getting his day going. He always arrived last for breakfast.

Q: Who loves training more than anyone else?

A: Elton Jantjies. There are not too many players around as professional as he is. He trains all the time, he consistently works at his game, no matter the day, or what the weather dishes up. If he’s not kicking at goal, he’s boxing, or working out in the gym.

Q: And who’s the most laid-back guy you’ve come across?

A: Andries Coetzee nothing bothers him. He doesn’t get upset or angry; he’s just very easy-going.

Q: And who’s the most serious guy who’s run out for the Lions?

A: Probably Marvin Orie; he takes his rugby seriously and likes to have long debates and discussions about the game. But, going back a bit, former captains Cobus Grobbelaar and Derick Minnie were also serious men.

Q: Who’s the one player who always has something to say?

A: Combrinck he had an answer for everything and a question for everything. He was curious about all sorts of things.

Q: Who has the biggest appetite?

A: (Former Lions) prop Kevin Buys. I’ve never seen a man eat so much. We would go out for dinner while on tour and he would finish a full rack of ribs and then also eat everyone else’s left-overs.

Q: Your most memorable games of the last 12 years?

A: The Currie Cup finals of 2011 and 2015 stand out, but I’m most proud of the Super Rugby quarter-final and semi-final wins against the Crusaders (42-25) and Highlanders (42-30) respectively at home in the 2016 season.

Q: Your worst game experience?

A: Obviously and most definitely the final at Ellis Park in 2017 (against the Crusaders). The atmosphere in the build-up and the crowd on match-day was phenomenal; so intense. The result, including what happened in the game, though left me and so many others completely deflated. I was shattered and heart-broken.

Q: Best Super Rugby player?

A: I know it’s a biased choice, but Malcolm Marx stands out for me.

Q: Best city visited?

A: Singapore. What a place! The people and how they treat visitors, the cleanliness, everything. It’s a phenomenal place.

Mustapha Boomgaard pose with New Zealand Maori warriors.

Q: And the worst?

A: Honestly, Dunedin in New Zealand. I wouldn’t go there out of choice. We’ve never stayed longer than two days, but it’s always rained, and been wet and cold. And it’s not only the skies that are grey, but everything else as well.

Q: Best night-out experience?

A: In Melbourne, at a restaurant named Conservatory. It was an unbelievable dining experience. But Melbourne is just wonderful for everything that it offers; it’s truly a sports hub that offers something for everyone.

Q: Most memorable person/coach/player/administrator met on your travels?

A: Just an ordinary guy by the name of Nasrudien Kassim, our media liaison when we visited Singapore. He treated me not like an opposition team manager, but like a brother.

Q: Your stand-out Super Rugby team?

A: The one team that has always brought out the best in the Lions is the Crusaders.

Q: If you could change one thing about Super Rugby, what would it be?

A: I’d like every team to play every team.

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