Former Springbok wing Courtnall Skosan has opened up on the challenges of being a pro rugby player during lockdown, his ambitions to still play for the Boks and what lies ahead for the Lions.
Like so many around the country, rugby players have felt the sting of the global pandemic. Its disruption has become entrenched and widespread. Skosan, however, says one of the few positives of the pandemic is that it has given him some perspective.
“You have to keep yourself busy with something else. We couldn’t go to the stadium to train or even to gym. That was quite a big adjustment but if you look at the other side of it, we usually travel a lot so we had a lot of time with our families.
“So, although it was a scary time, and there were pay cuts and that sort of thing, that’s the big positive I took from going through lockdown. The big thing for me was, ‘What do you have in front of you everyday?’ and that’s your kids and your wife. Your family are the most important thing and that time made me appreciate that.”
The Lions wing says he is thankful for everything he has, especially during the turbulence so many South Africans are experiencing.
“Look at what we’re experiencing in the country at the moment, there’s so much chaos and so many things going on. This pandemic has changed a lot of people. It’s sad for me when I hear the stories from back home in Cape Town where young men are actually committing suicide.
“So, I’m just grateful for the way the Lord has carried us through this time and gotten us back to somewhere near normal. A lot of life lessons learnt.”
Skosan elaborates on some of these: “The challenges are that you never know what’s going to happen the next day or even the next hour. So, the most important lesson I’ve learnt in the past year is that adaptability is one of the biggest attributes that you need in this time.
“You might find yourself in quarantine for two weeks and you need to be creative on how to keep fit and how to keep going, so that when you have a chance for selection you’re ready to go again.
“And you need to keep in a good mental space – watch enough analysis and sharpen up on the other areas of the game. You need to patient as well, anything could be thrown in front of you in the next day.”
The Lions have had an up-and-down season in this year’s Currie Cup. They seem to be struggling for consistency in their play but Skosan, now a veteran in the Lions set-up, says that they are on the right path.
“There’s a lot of excitement. Younger boys are coming through and putting up their hands. So, there’s a lot of excitement from the young guys and obviously from our [the senior players’] side we just need to keep calm heads.
“We’re in a space where we know we need results going forwards. So hopefully the talent we’ve got can get us on the path [to success]. We’re growing at the moment but hopefully that growth can turn into results.”
The Sigma Lions recently took a 42-point hammering against the British & Irish Lions, and Skosan says that although he personally is disappointed to have missed out on that game, the lessons learned will stand his teammates in good stead.
“I was obviously massively disappointed not to be a part of that set-up, it’s quite special to play against those guys. I think the guys probably learnt a lot of lessons playing against an international team.
“It was basically Test rugby, so they got a bit of a taste of it. To experience when you make a mistake being punished for it and getting one or two opportunities that you have to finish. That’s the difference between playing local rugby and Test rugby.
“They [the Sigma Lions] were obviously disappointed with the loss but for a few players that ignited a fire within them to push forward and one day play international rugby as well.”
Skosan last represented the Springboks in 2017, but says his Springbok aspirations still burn bright. Refusing to speculate on why he fell out of the Boks picture, he prefers instead to focus on what he can do to get back into it.
“The Springbok dream stays alive until the day that I hang my boots up. I’ll work as hard as I possibly can and I’ll do as best as I possibly can on the field to be able to pull that jersey over my head again. That’s obviously the biggest desire of my career.
“To say why I have been absent from the side since 2017, I can’t give you that answer. I got my injury in January 2018 and since I came back I haven’t had another opportunity except for the Green vs Gold game in Cape Town .
“Hopefully, I can keep working hard and stay fit so I can go out there and enjoy myself by playing the rugby I know I can. And hopefully somewhere in the future I can get another opportunity.”
With his 30th birthday just around the corner, Skosan laughs off the suggestion that he is entering the twilight of his career.
“It’s weird when you turn 30 and it seems to be a number where people start to talk about you being old. But I don’t feel old, I don’t feel like I’m 30 years old. I’ve been blessed that I haven’t been injured for the last two, three seasons so hopefully that continues going forward.
“I’m fit, I’m happy. I haven’t lost a step and I feel my body is in good shape. I work really hard with my rehab and my speed work, my extras with the high balls and the skills.”
Looking ahead to the start of the Test series against the B&I Lions, Skosan makes no bones about the result.
“We’re always going to back our boys. We’ve got a quality side and I definitely think it will be a series victory for us, so I’m looking forward to some good rugby. It’s going to be really exciting and its going to be really close!”