Spies power cleans 135kg. He dead lifts 240kg. He bench presses 165kg. Only mildly impressed? Wait, there’s more: he is able to do pull-ups with a 50kg weight between his legs. He can launch his 108kg body 1.4m onto a raised platform, sprints for 835m before slowing on a repeated sprint-ability test and has a body-fat percentage of 6.5.*
But it’s not his physical strength that makes Pierre Johan Spies (26) stand out. It’s his unwavering faith and perseverance. Having missed out on the 2007 World Cup and been on and off the field due to injuries, Pierre knows the sting of disappointment, but as a committed Christian, he also knows the faithfulness of God. His testimony is moving and I encourage you to read it (www.pierrespies.co.za).
We caught up with Pierre and his lovely wife Juanné near their house in Pretoria and got the inside scoop on their latest victory – the couple are expecting a ‘little Spiesie’ in January 2012.
Pierre, your dad was also a Springbok rugby player and sadly passed away before you became a Springbok. Who else has impacted your career?
My dad had the biggest influence on my career, he was a great motivator. There are so many other people/teachers/coaches who also impacted me, but far too many to name. I am grateful to all of them.
How did it feel putting on the Bok jersey for the first time?
Everything happened so quickly that I couldn’t really take it in, from the warm up to the singing of the anthem. We lost that match, but the whole experience made me proud to represent South Africa.
You missed out on the last WC. How does it feel heading off to New Zealand now and do you have any pre-game rituals?
I am very excited (especially because I missed out on the last one due to blood clots in my lungs). I’m planning to take in as much as I can and play the best rugby possible for the Boks. I don’t have any specific rituals; on the morning of the game I read the Bible and pray. When I get to the field, I have peace, but sometimes during the match I need to pray more!
Share a story of one of the lighter moments on tour…
Last year we played golf at St. Andrews in Scotland and the morning before we left, Dick Muir (Assistant Coach) almost missed the bus. Later that day he shot a hole-in-one – can you believe it! He bought us all a round of drinks and snacks. He was so happy he made the game and we were all pretty jealous!
How do you stay pure and blameless in your walk with the Lord, especially in the face of immense pressure and temptations?
I guess you have to take one day at a time and try to stay true to yourself, your spouse and the Lord. I also believe you have to stick to the basics…
Is it difficult to be so outspoken about your faith?
You have to be yourself – and that is who I am. Sometimes life is hard; that’s when we need good friends to lead us the right way.
There is an exodus of senior players from the Bulls and talk of you being made captain. Is this something you would desire?
It’s going to be a new era for the Bulls and it’s very exciting. If I fill the role as captain or stay a leader in the team – I’m happy!
The coaching structures/styles are different from Bulls to Springboks (at provincial and national level). Do you have to adapt your game?
There are a few changes we make; you need to adapt and learn to play as a unit as quickly as possible.
You have a powerful and very honest testimony. Do you discuss that in your new book?
Yes, I share my photos and personal stories about what God has done for me. There are also some rugby stories thrown in!
What is the first thing you will do when you get home after the World Cup?
Braai at home with friends and family!
Juanné, how did you two meet?
One of Pierre’s good friends, Rudi, introduced us to each other at the end of my matric year in 2005. We started to chat daily and then he asked me out for an ‘interview’ (getting to know each other better over a cup of coffee)! This ‘interview’ was very special because I realised that Pierre had something that I was looking for my whole life (but didn’t yet know it) – a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He invited me to church, Christian Revival Church (which we are part of to this day), and I gave my life to Christ. Our journey started then and we dated for three years before we got married. I treasure those three years because it was such an amazing time of forming and moulding my life personally and our relationship as a couple. We became best friends and fell deeply in love.
How do you handle being in the spotlight? Is there is a pressure on you as a player’s wife to look or act a certain way?
From the beginning Pierre and I decided to keep our lives as private as possible. The thing that has really helped us this far is to simplify our lives and stay true to ourselves, each other, our friends and family. As Pierre’s wife there is no pressure to look or act a certain way, he loves me completely. I think that a lot of other people think that sportsman’s wives need to be perfect and look like supermodels!
How do you cope with Pierre
being away so often?
It is never easy being away from each other and I don’t think that I will ever get used to it, but amazingly God always carries me through these times. I have plenty of time alone where God can build my character and shape me into His image. I am blessed with a good support structure and without my friends, family and church it would not be possible to cope with Pierre’s travels.
Sports players are often vulnerable to temptation, especially when they travel. Do you ever battle with trust/insecurities?
I have never questioned or doubted Pierre’s loyalty towards me though we are not sheltered from temptation and are definitely aware that it is out there. Something very important that I have learned from a friend and pastor’s wife, Andrea, is that the biggest mistake a couple or person can make is to think that you are above temptation. The devil will always try to make you insecure, but the most important thing is to know who you are in Christ and that He is above any insecurity or temptation.
Is there any woman or person who has been a mentor to you?
Our pastors At and Nyretta Boshoff have played a big role in our lives from the beginning of our Christian walk. You cannot run this race on your own and need people with the same vision to guide, direct and correct you as you go on.
Pierre is my husband and best friend, and from the time we started dating he has been and is still a great mentor to me. He knows me inside out and I trust that he will always correct and guide me in the right way, as will my friends and family.
How do you relax together?
We love eating good food at our favourite restaurants or just chilling at home, spending time together or braaing with friends.
Do you have plans for children any time soon?
Yes! I am pregnant as we speak and the ‘little Spiesie’ will be here in the middle of January 2012. We are really looking forward to starting a family and entering this new season in our lives.