This time last year, Lionel Cronjé was a rugby player without a contract and was about to help with coaching at his alma mater, Queen’s College in Queenstown, Eastern Cape.
The well-travelled former Sharks and Brumbies fly half has been convinced by Kings coach Deon Davids to play again.
This is his take on Australian teams:
What makes the Aussies so competitive?
The one thing that stands out for me is that, because rugby in Australia is not as big as it is in South Africa, they do not play under the same pressure.
They also have soccer and cricket, which are ranked above rugby.
The players do not have pressure on them, so they can play for enjoyment. They are competitive by nature, as you have seen with their cricket team.
What is the most important thing you learnt from playing there?
My experience was that because they do not have a wealth of talent like South Africa does, they invest a lot of time developing players.
In South Africa, if you get injured, or play one or two bad games, they pick another guy and you can easily get forgotten.
There are so few players there, they try to make sure that their careers last a lot longer.
That is why so many of their players have more than 50 caps much sooner than elsewhere – they start early.
Why is depth such an issue for them?
Rugby in Australia is only played in pretty much two states – New South Wales and Queensland – but elsewhere, they play other sports. I do not really know the reason, but the rugby league is massive there and only private schools play for the rugby union.
Who do you fancy to win their conference?
Aussie teams are pretty competitive among one another because they spread their talent across all the five franchises.
It’s not like the Jaguares, who have internationals throughout the team – they spread their internationals across the five teams.
It’s difficult to pick one, but the Brumbies, Reds and Waratahs will probably be fighting to win the conference.
Is there a new player in their system you think we should look out for?
There is Nick Jooste.
He is a fly half and centre, and comes from Western Australia. He has moved to the Brumbies with (Zimbabwe-born centre) Kyle Godwin, and they should make a good partnership.
Is it true that Aussie players are argumentative?
Not really. They are very passionate and knowledgeable about their rugby.
If you look at the England and Wales game last weekend, you could see Eddie Jones, an Australian, knows his rugby.
They have longer pre-seasons like us and have a lot of time to analyse opposition – maybe that is why.
What is the most intimidating venue in Australia?
It is not so much a venue. It is probably more intimidating to be a South African playing for an Australian side. It is more intimidating to take that chance to play your rugby there.
Jooste is a 19-year-old who has a South African father and an Australian mother. He is 1.90m tall and weighs 94kg, and is one of only six Australian players to be signed for Super Rugby straight from school.
He can kick goals from 60m out and is known as Bernie Junior at the Brumbies because he is rangy like his coach, Stephen Larkham, whose nickname as a player was Bernie.