Cape Town - Recently-retired Blitzbok talisman Frankie Horne will be remembered as one of the players who set the foundation for the professional sevens game in South Africa.
“They just don’t make them like Frankie anymore,” then Springbok Sevens head coach Paul Treu quipped to one of his assistants during an intense training session in Stellenbosch in 2012.
In the sweltering 36 degrees Celsius January heat, the 1.83m, 105kg sevens machine just kept going. His tiring team-mates followed his example, inspired by his relentless efforts. And even though it was just a training session, the Springbok Sevens heavyweight refused to slow down.
Horne made it clear that he was pure sevens pedigree, which he proved throughout his career.
It was the sort of pedigree that helped him achieve many milestones during his time with the national team. These included the memorable 2008-09 World Series triumph and the gold medal at the 2011 Commonwealth Games. He also achieved several personal milestones, including the record of the first sevens player to play 50 consecutive World Series tournaments.
“I enjoyed a great career with many memories,” the 33-year-old Horne told MyPlayers.
“Missing out on the Olympics was a big personal disappointment, but there are many highlights I can be happy about. In addition to the team and individual achievements, a special moment was winning the tournament in Port Elizabeth in 2013.
“We won that tournament in honour of Nelson Mandela, who died several days before the event. It was an important one for the team as we did it for our country.
“Looking back to my journey in sevens, we had a special bond among the players. We built friendships and experienced moments around the world that will last a lifetime. Those are the sort of memories I will always remember and cherish.”
Horne will be remembered for his invaluable contribution to sevens rugby. And he’s proud of the way it’s grown over the years.
“For a very long time, sevens rugby was the step-child of South African rugby. People didn’t know too much about it, so they treated it like a spectator sport,” said Horne.
“We then made a big statement after winning the 2008/09 World Series title, but at the same time, it also hit us hard as we lost many players to 15s rugby thereafter. This included the likes of Robert Ebersohn and Gio Aplon. Losing that sort of talent caused a few slumps.
“However, we continued to build. The full-time move to the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport was a great development. It gave us a world-class base with awesome services and support. We also managed to discover great young talent through our academy, including the likes of Werner Kok and Seabelo Senatla.
“South African sevens rugby is enjoying a great rise and there’s a better relationship with 15s rugby. More guys are being released for national duty, which is why we are seeing guys like Juan de Jongh, Warren Whiteley, Cheslin Kolbe and Francois Hougaard joining us. And the 15s teams are also looking to use our talents, which sees many sevens guys play Super Rugby, Currie Cup or even Springbok rugby. This balance between 15s and sevens is great for South African rugby.
“And with sevens rugby in the Olympics mix, there’s going to be so much more to look forward to.”
The public showed their appreciation too as over 50 000 fans attended the inaugural Cape Town Sevens in 2015. The 2016 edition provided a bigger stage.
“The Cape Town Sevens was a great spectacle for the players and the fans. It really warms my heart seeing such a huge crowd attend a local tournament,” said Horne. “It’s a great way to celebrate rugby. It makes me feel that all those years of hard work and sacrifices that me and many other players put in was worth it.”
Horne made a valuable contribution off the field too. As a MyPlayers Player Representative, he assisted many members through the support structures made available by the Players’ Organisation.
“MyPlayers is doing great work for rugby players in South Africa,” said Horne. “I still remember the good old days with Piet Heymans and SARPA (South African Rugby Players’ Association) during the early days. How this organisation has evolved and grown is amazing.
“Players are now offered opportunities to study and further their academic careers. They have access to a variety of services, from financial advice to moving furniture at discounted rates. All these benefits make our lives easier.
“I made the effort as a MyPlayers Player Representative to help the guys around me. People always think rugby players have it easy, but there are many challenges or hardships we go through in the background. I’d always assist a team-mate with a MyPlayers service when they needed help or direction.”
After retirement from professional rugby, Horne will be involved in various ventures. Something he’s excited to be involved in is coaching and consulting as he wants to help other players excel on and off the field.
So Coach Frankie, any advice to players coming through the professional ranks?
“Just work hard,” answers Horne.
“Yes, you get players like Justin Geduld or Cecil Afrika with natural rugby talent, but unfortunately, the rest of us have to work hard to compete at the highest levels!
“If you put in the hard work consistently, you will get the deserved reward. Many players want to achieve certain things, but they don’t want to work hard for it.”
Yes, just like Paul Treu said, they just don’t make them like Frankie Horne anymore...
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