Josh Strauss: Why I almost quit the game at age 21
Joshua Zac Strauss has had a celebrated and storied career on the rugby field, even playing for Scotland against his country of birth, South Africa.
His path is one of many twists and turns.
In Part One of a nearly hour-long interview, he sat down with @king365ed to talk about the early days and why he almost quit the game at age 21.
His story is not one that follows the well-treated path of getting a contract straight out of school, even though he was schooled at Paul Roos Gymnasium.
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.
Strauss, after a ‘gap-year’ in France, played for the Boland Cavaliers, Lions, Glasgow Warriors, Sale Sharks, Stade Francais and eventually the Bulls.
The journey also included a three-year period of international rugby.
Not having had many prospects after school, he had planned to take a ‘gap year’ – planning to eventually study veterinary science.
However, an opportunity to “earn some cash” by playing in France saw Strauss jump on a plane and head to Europe – where he played for the small-town team of Lons-le-Saunier.
Much to their surprise, the group of South African boys – all still under-19 – ended up playing in the senior leagues.
Upon his return to South Africa, while playing club rugby in the Western Cape, he got a call from Louis Koen – the former Springbok flyhalf, who most recently served as SA Rugby’s high-performance manager – to join Boland.
Strauss explained how he first thought a friend was playing a prank on him and dismissed the call, before a persistent Koen convinced him to join his first provincial union in 2008.
The next year, 2009, he suffered a catastrophic knee injury in the first pre-season training session – an injury so severe he was told he might never run again.
As a result, he lost the Boland contract he had signed.
* In his own words – Josh Straus, the early days …
“I said to my mom: ‘I am turning 21 this year, I had a decent run, it is probably time to call it’,” he said about what appeared to be a career-ending injury.
He then went to Stellenbosch to start studying for a general BA degree, in the hope of getting into a course for a BSc degree.
“During that time I trained in the gymnasium,” he said, adding: “My knee was always sore. Then, one day, when I got on the cycle, for the first time in 11 months it wasn’t sore.
“I went outside, had a run on the field and my knee was fine.
“I had a chat with Conrad Burke [the Boland captain at the time], who had good connections at Maties.
“He contacted Chean Roux [US coach] for me and Chean Roux got me in. I played Varsity Cup that year.
“After that the Lions recruited me,” he said of the start of a journey that would lead to numerous international matches – including playing against the Springboks on a couple of occasions.
* Don’t miss the next instalment of the Josh Strauss interview – when he talks about his decision to move to Scotland.