Bok dreams and Scottish realities
Joshua Zac Strauss was on the cusp of Springbok selection, but a snub by the national selectors forced him to rethink his future.
As a result, the celebrated and storied career saw him play for Scotland against his country of birth, South Africa.
However, it was not a path he deliberately sought out. It is a result of a series of combined events.
In Part Two of a nearly hour-long interview, he sat down with @king365ed to talk about the decision to give up on his Springbok dream to become a Scottish international.
After overcoming the many obstacles in his path, Strauss – having made it all the way to the top, including the 2015 World Cup – is now ploughing back into the game.
Strauss, an amiable and laid-back individual generally, is involved in coaching and recruiting at the South African College High School – also known as SACS – in Cape Town.
* In Part One he spoke about why he almost quit the game at age 21.
Strauss spoke of the long, hard slog back after being sidelined for nearly a year after knee surgery.
After a slow start in the 2010 Varsity Cup season, he eventually cemented a starting place in the University of Stellenbosch teams and featured prominently in the victorious Maties team in the Final against the University of Cape Town.
With no serious local offers on the table, he did consider returning to France – before an offer from the Lions landed on his desk.
“I was on a one-week trial,” he said, adding that he was “not in great shape” but made enough of an impression to land a contract.
Having made his Currie Cup debut against the Cheetahs, Strauss then became an integral part of the Lions’ set-up and helped them win the tournament in 2011.
Not having followed the well-trodden path of being a star at school and getting contracted early, the name Joshua Zac Strauss was not always that high on the Springbok pecking order.
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“I had this massive long road, with many twists and turns,” he said about his journey to international stardom.
“At the Lions, things started taking off for me and I was named captain.
“In 2011 I made one of the [Bok] ‘alignment camps’ with the Cheetahs and Lions players.
“I really enjoyed the experience, but never made it any further that year.
“In 2012 I made the final [Bok] camp, with all the big names in the squad.
“I had a one-on-one and they told me I was playing very well and that I had a good chance of starting.
“There were no games left for me to do anything right or wrong, but I got left out again.”
Approaching 26 and getting a scene sense was running out, he asked his agent to look out for opportunities abroad.
“The Lions were going to get kicked out of Super Rugby and the players got such mixed messages,” Strauss said.
“I had another two years left on my contract [with the Lions] and the other option I was to be loaned out [to a Super Rugby franchise].
“It just wasn’t a good time and I felt it was time to move abroad.”
Strauss said it was never his intention to represent another country.
In fact, he had an offer to go play Super Rugby for the Chiefs in New Zealand, something he seriously considered.
However, when he started crunching the numbers, it “made more sense” to play in either the United Kingdom or France.
“When I spoke to Glasgow, they brought up the point that I could play for Scotland,” the now 35-year-old said.
“At the time [the three-year-residency] wasn’t really a thing being done by a lot of people.
“I always wanted to play international rugby. As a youngster, I dreamt of being a Springbok.
“The opportunity came around and I ended up going to Glasgow.”
Strauss also talked about the ‘drafting system’ in Scottish rugby which means professional players are allocated to amateur clubs – similar to what the Bulls have implemented in Pretoria in the last year or two.
The only time he actually played for his ‘draft club’, Aberdeen, was after suffering a massive concussion and the subsequent desire to regain confidence and much-needed game time through a club game.
* Don’t miss the next instalment of the Josh Strauss interview – when he talks about his international career and facing the Springboks.