In a feature from SA Rugby magazine, DYLAN JACK caught up with former Springbok and Vodacom Bulls prop Gurthrö Steenkamp.
The day 6 November 2009 still lives in the memory of Gurthrö Steenkamp. Looking to regain his place in the Bok squad, he was put to the sword by Italian prop Martin Castrogiovanni in a mid-week friendly against Leicester. Steenkamp was replaced before half-time and did not play for the rest of the end-of-year tour.
Once celebrated as a Super Rugby and 2007 World Cup winner, Steenkamp found himself vilified by the fans and media alike.
‘I made a conscious decision to come back with everything,’ Steenkamp says. ‘I came back fitter and stronger than ever. I was motivated, not to prove people wrong, but to prove it to myself.’
The year that followed was to be one of the best in Steenkamp’s career. After helping the Bulls to their third Super Rugby title in 2010, playing in all but one of their 15 matches, he shone the brightest in what was otherwise a disappointing year for the Springboks, earning the SA Rugby Player of the Year award.
He even got revenge against Castrogiovanni when the Boks hosted Italy in Witbank, which saw the Italian replaced after 19 minutes. After the 2011 World Cup, Steenkamp decided to join Toulouse in France.
‘I needed a challenge after the World Cup. As a professional player in South Africa you spend a lot of time away from home. That influenced my decision. In France, if you play away on the weekend, it is maximum two days away from home.’
Steenkamp played for the then European Champions until 2017, helping them win their domestic league in 2012.
‘It was amazing to play for Toulouse. My first season was tough. I had a dream debut, putting in a few big hits, but then I got injured, fracturing my hip. To be part of the team that played in the final against Toulon in 2012 was incredible, playing at the Stade de France and coming back to Toulouse the day after, having 12 000 people waiting for you.’
After his release from Toulouse, Steenkamp ended his career after joining Stade Français as a medical joker, officially retiring in 2017.
‘It was a question of making it feasible for my family. But I decided that would be my last stint.’
LIFE AFTER RUGBY
After his retirement, Steenkamp completed his business degree with Bryan Habana through the Toulouse Business School. He is also busy completing a coaching course in France.
‘I am actually busier now as a retired player than I used to be. I’m thinking of putting on the boots again so I can get some time off,’ Steenkamp laughs.
‘I have been consulting in France, Germany and Holland. I have been doing a lot of front-row training camps, high-performance camps and individual work with players; identifying what they need and putting everything in place, whether it is training sessions or analysis of the games.
‘Towards the end of the year I will be coming back to South Africa and working closely with Rhino Rugby. We will be hosting camps – from scrum camps to specific training of different positions. I am looking forward to getting back to South Africa with all this knowledge I have accumulated.’
Most recently, Steenkamp has been confirmed as the new scrum coach of French second division side US Colomiers.
✍️ Congratulations to @gurthro for becoming scrum coach of @ColomiersRugby for next season in @rugbyprod2 !
✍️ Felicitations @gurthro qui devient entraîneur de la mêlée de @ColomiersRugby la saison pro haine en @rugbyprod2 ! pic.twitter.com/wtpKI1s8RE
— Damien Dussault (@damiendussault) May 31, 2019
Steenkamp is married to Jana and has three children, Kaylee (15), Werner (11) and Giana-Mae (5). The oldest daughter has taken an interest in horse riding and qualified for the French championships for the past two years.
‘My son is still discovering what his sport is. He plays football and started rugby at a young age, and is boxing. I tell him it takes time to find your sport and that he isn’t obliged to play rugby just because I did.
‘We love spending time outside in the fresh air and spending time together in general, enjoying each other’s company. We still love to braai, on Sundays especially.’
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– This feature first appeared in the July 2019 edition of SA Rugby magazine.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images