SA Rugby magazine caught up with former Springbok and Lions wing Dean Hall.
HIS RUGBY CAREER
Once touted as South Africa’s version of Jonah Lomu, Dean Hall was a prodigious talent who blazed his way through the local system, from schools rugby to the club scene through to the provincial set-up and ultimately the international arena.
Unfortunately, all his achievements were crammed into an intermittent 10-year span because his career was blighted by injuries that ultimately took their toll and forced him into an early retirement.
Hall starred for Springs Boys’ High while also turning out for Pirates Rugby Club.
He would earn selection for the South Africa U23 side in 1996 and, a year later, he made his debut for the Golden Lions at U21 and senior level. It was the perfect platform to launch his professional career, which was redirected to the Cats and Sharks and culminated in 13 Tests for the Springboks.
‘There are so many memorable moments I hold dear. Becoming a Springbok, being associated with all the teams I was in, all the coaches, players and different characters I met along the way; every part of being a rugby player was just a fantastic time of my life,’ he says.
Because he was considerably bigger in size than the norm for a wing in South Africa, Hall drew comparisons to All Blacks superstar Lomu, but he rejects that.
‘Jonah was an unbelievable player who revolutionised his position and the game in general. I was, at that point in time, coming up as a big wing so I was just put into the same mould. I can honestly say I never compared myself to Jonah. My game was slightly different to his; defensively I was stronger whereas he was far more effective on attack using his weight and his speed,’ Hall says.
Considering the high praise Hall bestows on the likes of Lomu, Christian Cullen, Joe Roff and Stephen Larkham, it wouldn’t be out of place to assume one of his Test matches against the All Blacks or Wallabies was the pinnacle of his career.
But he goes back to the beginning to single out his favourite moment.
‘I was 19 and playing for Pirates when I was selected by Lions coach Dawie
Snyman to play in the Currie Cup semi-final against Western Province in 1997. I ran out at Newlands and James Small – the most capped Springbok at that stage – was my opponent. I was the new youngster coming on to the scene and I had to play against him. That was a real baptism of fire if ever there was one and I loved every moment of it.’
Hall identifies the 2000-01 Cats squads – under the tutelage of Laurie Mains and featuring Rassie Erasmus, Andre Vos, Andre Venter, Johan Ackermann and Japie Mulder – as the best and most professional set-up he had experienced. However, he is adamant there’s nothing he would change about the direction his career took before and after his three-year stint at the Cats.
‘I wouldn’t say I have regrets. I feel more of a disappointment because
unfortunately my career was cut short by an injury.’
‘It’s hard to sit down with four doctors and have them tell you your career is over.
‘It’s a tough pill to swallow, but after that I did manage to find a doctor who was able to do a different procedure on my knee, which allowed me to get another four years of playing rugby. I was never the same player after the operation. It was frustrating that I couldn’t bow out on my own terms.’
LIFE AFTER RUGBY
‘Life after rugby is a very difficult place to find yourself. You have so much
direction while playing and you’re committed to the cause. Making that transition is the hardest. AJ Venter recently came out admitting he suffered a traumatic experience after leaving rugby and it is a tough place to be. But you focus on the positives and you find your way eventually,’ Hall says.
Since his retirement in 2007, he had worked at various companies in private sector until 2015. Now he runs his own business, Solo Chemicals.
‘I’ve always been passionate about nutrition, in particular joint and bone health. So I started a company that imports clinically proven and validated ingredients which benefit people who suffer from bad knee joints and bones, and in health nutrition in general. It’s changing people’s lives and it’s rewarding.’
Hall is happily married to wife Nicole and has two daughters, Taylor (12) and
‘No boys, but they do say rugby players generally have girls and I’m loving every minute of being a father of two lovely girls. We enjoy going out in to nature, taking walks and going on long drives to the countryside. We expose them to various sports without pressurising them because we want them to develop and grow at their own pace.’
Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images