Friday, September 18, 2009
Former Western Province and Stormers lock Ross Skeate has been at Toulon in the South of France since last season, and is going strong with the club, having recently scored his first try in the Top 14. We caught up with Ross ahead of their upcoming clash with Toulouse, to talk about bad refs, blood scandals, and big hits.
So Ross, firstly - Cape Town or the South of France, and why?
I would have to say both and for different reasons. In so many ways they resemble each other but in so many others they are literally worlds apart. Cape Town for the Mountain, my family, my friends, my comfort zone and being in Africa again. The South Of France for the experience, the culture and language, the travelling and a new adventure.
What is your earliest rugby memory?
My earliest memories must be that of playing...as a youngster I found it more interesting playing than watching! Never could understand why my pops wanted to watch the game or any sport related event instead of my cartoons! But playing barefoot as a little boy on the fields of SACS Junior School must be it. Oranges at half time and no understanding or memory of who or what we were really doing, just having fun.
Should French referees be breathalysed before matches?
HaHa! I can relate to that statement! But seriously, I do think referees should be analysed and held more accountable for any decisions made on the field. I think one of the problems at the moment is that French referees are as a majority not professional.
Thus if such referees were under the same stringent controls through a referee governing body as they are when they are professional, it would be far more beneficial for the refs themselves and the french game.
We've heard even the staunchest of Afrikaaners speaking eloquent French. How is yours coming along, and how much of a requirement is it considering you have a resident translator?
Mine's actually coming along nicely, but not as quickly as I wish it was. Unfortunately having so many foreigners in the side this year as well as last put me in a comfort zone linguistically, and I know had I found myself in a club that was strictly more french the proverbial deep end would be my best tutor.
But I am learning quickly and my comprehension of what is said I am pretty happy with. Speaking is another story...and its made more frustrating when those freaking Argies arrive and pick the language up in a few months!
You were a highly respected player in South Africa. Do you still have Springbok ambitions?
I do, but when I found myself sitting on the bench for consecutive Super 14 season, for whatever reasons, I knew that I needed to make a change in my current career path and take control of things... Being here in France and deciding to make the move I felt as though I did and now am in control of what happens during the course of things, as opposed to the place I found myself when I was counting the splinters.
I think most of all I want to play Internationally... and maybe that means playing for another country and becoming re-nationalized, but that is something I truly do not have the answers to now... I am aware that if I wanted to play for the Boks, that would mean a move back to South Africa and playing for a franchise there. If i decide that is the best for me and what I want out of rugby and life thats what I shall do. At the moment though, I am happy to see out this current season with Toulon.
Which do you think is the better rugby - Super 14 or Top 14, and how do they differ from a player's perspective?
I must admit I think that the Super 14 is a more attractive open game and hence more entertaining to watch, but I dont think it is as passionately followed as the Top 14 here in France. From a playing perspective I find the game here in the Top 14 obviously slower and also less taxing as far as the amount of phases that each team puts the ball through. But the physicality and emphasis on forward play is more significant here. Although with the Super 14 and the speed of the game the impact and collision points are often (although less frequent) more painful.
You share a changeroom with Jonny Wilkinson, Joe Van Niekerk, Felipe Contepomi, and loads of other foreign stars. It must be quite an experience?
I think you should be asking them what it's like sharing a changing room with Ross Skeate!!! But it is a strange experience and a great one. Never did I envision myself playing with so many big names from so many different backgrounds and countries as I do now. Playing in Toulon has opened my mind and experiences to rugby and life in Europe and the UK more than ever before (as well as Fiji, Japan, Tonga, Samoa and Argentina!). And having watched many of these guys playing for their countries from a distance and now getting to know them has been fun, but not something totally alien to me having played with a number of other big names in the Stormers and Barbarians.
What's your take on the recent Bloodgate scandal at Harlequins? Is it a first time you've heard of that type of thing, or is it a more common occurrence than we realise?
I assume it has happened more than one would think, and I do feel sympathy for all those involved having pictured myself in their shoes. I remember once trying to get punched so I could go off for a blood bin as I was a substitute and had just torn a ligament in my foot. Sadly no one in the Cheetahs team that day was obliging enough and I hobbled my way through the rest of the game.
Mostly I am glad that the player involved, who originally seemed the scapegoat, has since recieved a lighter punishment. I also think that it has led to a flurry of news related traffic about the alleged fighting, thuggery and general bad stuff in the game... particularily in the UK. It seemed it was all about Football before and now its rugby's turn.
Have you had words with Tana Umaga yet about South Africa's Tri Nations win?
I did have a little dig at him the other day, especially because he's always so quick to point out any All Black victory! And not too long ago Joe Van Niekerk and Tana took a bet over the first Bok All Balck game of the Tri-Nations. Tana was obviously on the losing side that day and had to serve Joe breakfast. I enjoyed it as much as I think he did.
In your 50th Currie Cup match against Griquas last year, you got smashed on a cpl of occasions, as featured here on RD . Is the Kimberley turf as hard as it looks?
I cant believe you are bringing that up let alone showing it!!! I guess Murphy's law is that on my 50th the whole Griquas side would target me, and Heinrich Stride would be the deliverer. They were pretty good hits I must admit, especially the first, but in my defence Francois Louw did pass me a ball with a terrible little lob on it, backed by the sun which obviously was in my eyes at the time!!!! But the worst part about hits like that is not that they hurt, is that they are far more embarrassing and remain so for a long time to come... did i thank you again for bringing it up? And I think that what makes the Griquas turf harder than it is already, is how Griquas play the way they do at home.
Are any of the Toulon guys aware of what we do here on RD? Does Big Joe for example know that we featured a clip of him getting welcomed' to the Top 14 by Henry Tuilagi last year?
Haha! I don't know if he does, but he will tomorrow when I tell him! But yeah allot of the boys know about the site and some even refer to it pretty often. The Toulon home game against Stade Francais last year, and the fight that ensued with 'Storming' Norman Jordaan coming out the winner with three knockouts, has been talked about on few occasions.
What does Ross Skeate do to unwind and forget about rugby for a bit?
I know for everyone its pretty different, but for me I read a bit, listen to a lot of music, smoke a Shisha (not very professional I know) and basically chill. My favourite place to unwind is in the Jacuzzi of my new apartment in Toulon - coffee, Shisha and some music to help 'take the edge off'.
How stoked were you at getting your first try for Toulon a week ago? (featured below)
Pretty happy I gotta admit. Just the week before I had been thinking how I hadn't crossed the try line for the club yet and was aching for it. Only problem is having lost like we did in the final minutes... it really took the shine off.
And finally, Toulon play Toulouse this weekend - is revenge on the cards?
I have no doubt it has been a topic in the Toulouse team room this week, and we are expecting a full strength Toulouse side and one hell of a match! I can't wait!
Ross has his own personal website which he updates with all sorts of behind the scenes info, photos, and stories about life at Toulon. Check it out at www.rossskeate.com
Ross Skeate smashed twice by Heinrich Stride
Henry Tuilagi welcomes Joe Van Niekerk to the Top 14
Toulon vs Stade Francais fight in the Top 14 (Norman Jordaan knockouts)
Harlequins hit hard with massive fine and suspension after fake injury
Note: We aim to have similar player interviews in future, so hope that you enjoy this, our first.