By Sarah Boomgaard
In this honest interview; Bath captain, Luke Watson discusses everything from fatherhood to his decision to move to the Southern Kings. Luke opens up to squash the rumours and talk about his hopes for 2011. It’s all there; Bath, the Kings, WP and even the Blue Bulls get a mention!
Sarah: It seems since your arrival, all the articles have been about how happy you are at Bath. What made you decide to return to South Africa?
Luke: I’ve loved Bath and I still do. It’s an indescribably beautiful city. It’s very different to the sort of natural, scenic beauty of South Africa but still amazing in its own way. Everywhere you go there are chapels, churches and buildings dating back hundreds of years. Walking the streets of Bath makes you feel like you’re on the set of some medieval movie. It is definitely a must see for everyone who comes to the UK.
As for the rugby side of things, the Bath Rugby Club has exceeded all of my expectations. I couldn’t express how great the guys in the team are. Some of the nicest guys I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. My team mates, in a very short period of time have become some of my best mates and I have no doubt that they will continue to be very close friends for years to come! The city, the fans, the team mates are all amazing!! So having said all of this… It was a very difficult decision to say goodbye to Bath. I always knew that I would one day return to South Africa but I never knew it would be so soon. I am South African through and through. It’s in my blood. I love SA so passionately and I am beyond proud to be South African. I am incredibly grateful for this time that I’ve had in Bath. I think it was good for me to get some distance from certain things in my life and be able to establish a new, fresh and personal perspective on life. So I have changed a lot. Well I like to think so.
The reason I’m returning home is because I miss my country, I love my country and I want to be a part of the bright, exciting future that South Africa is discovering more and more each day. I want to be a positive influence and constructively contribute to South Africa in any manner or form. I want to make a difference! I want to see South Africa not only reach its potential as a nation but also celebrate its uniqueness along the way. I believe in SA. It is home.
Sarah: Just before the big announcement you tweeted that you had some exciting news to tell everybody. Everybody immediately thought you were returning to Western Province. What made you choose the Southern Kings over WP?
Luke: I probably tweet too much! Why the Kings?! Why not WP?! I love WP. It was such an honour to have played there for so many years. It was my passion. At times I was definitely a bit too passionate but I loved it. Some of my greatest memories are running out onto a packed Newlands. The atmosphere is ridiculous!! Spine tingling, emotional… just amazing!
Strangely enough some of my favourite games were playing the Bulls at Loftus. Unbelievable rivalry and atmosphere. A victory there didn’t come often but when it did it was better than most feelings in the world! So thank you WP for that… I love WP and I love the fans! The WP fans are crazy… The craziest (in a good way of course)! I am so grateful for those years and will always cheer for WP (except when the Kings play them. That’ll be weird!!).
Why the Kings? Just to clear up all the rumours first: Did I go to the Kings because of my dad… No. Did I go to the Kings because no other team would take me… No! I’m sure the Bulls would’ve taken me 😉 . To all the Bulls supporters I am just joking. I’ve the utmost respect for what the Bulls have achieved and how they have dominated world rugby even though they are WP’s biggest derby/opponent/enemy. WP vs. Bulls was always my favourite fixture!
Back to the Kings now… I’m a PE boy, born and bred. I love PE and I only have the fondest memories of it. I played my first professional season for the ‘mighty elephants'(we weren’t that mighty back then). The decision to play for the Kings was a tough one because I knew everyone would say I was running back to my dad, I knew everyone would go on about the ‘Puke Watson’ thing, I knew that I was truly hated by some sectors of SA and I knew everyone would say that I was just trying to wangle my way back into the Boks…. I knew all of this. I still know it now. But I couldn’t let all of this stand in the way of my dreams! I always wanted PE to have top flight rugby and to be a competitive franchise. I always wanted to see EP at the top or at least fighting its way to get there!
To be honest, if PE was a ‘big’ union then I probably would never have left in the first place. So to me, this opportunity to be a part of building or at least trying to build a great team and union is an opportunity that I couldn’t say no to. Yes the odds are against us, yes there are many challenges and obstacles and yes there will be some very tough times BUT the opportunity to be a part of history and something great far outweighs those negatives. The Kings can change PE, can change the Eastern Cape and hopefully even impact SA rugby for the good. It’s new, fresh, untarnished and full of potential.
Sarah: What will you miss most about Bath?
Luke: Friends. My team mates and the friends I’ve made here. Friends for life. Definitely not the weather 😉
Sarah: How did your team mates and fans react when they heard you were leaving?
Luke: I was very honest and upfront from the beginning. I told Bath that it wasn’t a money issue, it was me chasing a dream! No amount of money in the world was going to change my mind. They were very understanding and supportive. Quite a few of them said it sounded like the best decision and told me to go for it! It’s not often in your life that you have to make such a difficult decision but I went with my heart. They were disappointed but very happy for me.
Sarah: What are you most looking forward to in 2011?
Luke: 1.FATHERHOOD!! 2. Coming home 3. Second chances 4. Challenges 5. Enjoying it all.
Sarah: What are you most and least looking forward to about fatherhood?
Luke: I’m looking forward to everything about it! Can’t wait!! Bringing a new life into the world… Wow! Teaching her love, peace, joy, kindness, compassion, dream BIG HUGE MASSIVE, chase your dreams and to have fun while doing this thing called life! I want her to believe that she can do anything and everything that she wants! I want her to love God so deeply that nothing else matters and I want her to just be… herself!
Sarah: What do you think will be your biggest challenge at the Kings?
Luke: Everything! Ah there are going to be so many challenges as a team that we will face. Where do I begin?! Both on and off the field it’s going to be a fight! A fight in a good way but a fight nonetheless! We need people to become fans and the fans to believe in us! This is not just about the Kings… It’s about a whole community, a whole city! It’s about making history and changing the future!! We all have to get behind this and just BELIEVE!!
Sarah: You have played for four provincial teams (Eastern Province, Sharks, Western Province and Bath), will the Kings’ jersey be the last one you wear?
Luke: Who knows?! I’ve loved every team I’ve played for and appreciated every experience. I hope this is the last jersey I wear but it’s all about God’s plans not mine 😉
Sarah: Do you see yourself playing for the Springboks again?
Luke: The BIG question. Ah I feel like I could go on about this topic forever but I am not going to. I love my country. I am incredibly passionate about my country. I would love to represent my country. It would be an honour and a privilege. Will this ever happen… once again who knows?! Every time I wore the Bok jersey in the past there was major controversy surrounding it due to numerous reasons but I am not going to blame others or make any excuses. If I could I would do things very differently.
If I could change the past I would but… I can’t! I can’t live the rest of my life bound by certain aspects of my past. I need to move on. Some people will choose to hate/detest/despise me for the rest of their lives, that I can’t change. I can only change who I am and I try to do that on a regular basis!
Sarah: Where do you see yourself in 10-15 years time?
Luke: I don’t have a clue and I am quite glad about that! I see myself even more in love with my beautiful wife and hopefully lots of kids running around causing chaos. I see me and my family loving Jesus with everything single thing that we have and in some way bringing some love, joy, peace and justice into this world! That sounds like one of those Miss Universe ‘world peace’ speeches but it’s totally true!
Sarah: You were already in Bath when John Smit’s autobiography was released. How did you react when you found out hat a few of the fan page members (Team Watson) went to a few of Smit’s signing sessions to ask him a few questions and more to the point, got him to sign a Team Watson T-shirt?
Luke: Hahaha…. I heard about that! I laughed and thought wow those fans are pretty gutsy and brave! It was cool and kinda funny but I say let bygones be bygones and move forward. Ps Thank you 😉
Sarah: And lastly, do you have anything to say to the fans, cynical and fence-sitters?
Luke: Fans, fence-sitters, cynics… thank you all! Thanks to those who have supported me through some really difficult times (I might even have let some of you down and for that I apologise). You are awesome! To the cynics/haters… I get it. I promise. I totally understand. I’m sorry if I offended or hurt anyone, that was never my intention. People make mistakes. I’ve definitely made some. So I understand. To the fence-sitter… Thanks for not hating me!! 😉