The day a Bok told Josh Strauss: 'Not today'
Joshua Zac Strauss admitted that playing for Scotland was initially not a serious consideration for him, but when the opportunity came he embraced it wholeheartedly.
Most, if not all, South African boys dream of playing for the Springboks and Strauss certainly had such aspirations.
However, he ended up playing against the Boks at a World Cup.
In Part Three of a nearly hour-long interview, he sat down with @king365ed to talk about what it was like fronting up the Springboks – a team he dreamt of playing for!
“From my conversations with them [Scottish officials], in my mind, it was something that ‘might’ happen,” he told @rugby365com about playing for Scotland.
He added that Scottish officials were certainly “pushing” for his inclusion.
“When I signed, I wanted to go after the Currie Cup [season had concluded], but they said I had to be there by September 1,” Strauss added.
They even paid the Johannesburg-based Lions a release fee to allow Strauss to arrive in good time.
“At the time I didn’t realise what was happening,” Strauss said, adding: “However, they were pushing because three years later it would have made me eligible for the first round of the World Cup [in 2015].”
Strauss revealed how – after a Glasgow Warriors training session in 2015 – then Scotland coach Vern Cotter approached him and gave him feedback on what he had to work on and what would be required of him once he gets into the Scotland camp.
Then it finally dawned upon him that his selection for Scotland was “a done deal”.
And he also revealed how Scotland kept him involved in the World Cup build-up, even though he wasn’t formally meant to be part of the squad till September.
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“I wasn’t eligible for the build-up to the World Cup and wasn’t allowed to play in any of the pre-season [pre-tournament] games,” he said.
“I trained with them and did the whole pre-season [build-up] with them.
“I was training with the Scotland team, but driving back and playing for Glasgow at the weekend.”
Strauss became eligible for Scotland on 22 September 2015 – the day before Scotland’s opening World Cup game against Japan, at Kingsholm, in Gloucester.
Strauss came off the bench in the 57th minute of Scotland’s 45-10 triumph over a Japan team that had four days earlier caused the biggest upset in World Cup history – by beating South Africa.
His 24 Scottish caps include two against South Africa – the first a decisive World Cup Pool B match on October 3 at St. James’ Park, in Newcastle.
Straus spoke of the “big step up” to international level.
While most people would suggest Japan being an ‘easy game’ for most Tier One nations, Strauss admitted his Test debut was “fast and physical beyond expectations”.
“They weren’t a big team, but they were hitting us hard and I realised this is another level,” Strauss added.
“There is a reason why this is international rugby – the best players from every country doing this.”
He said his toughest games were always against South African teams.
“It comes down to the way that I play,” he said, adding: “I play a very direct game.
“If you are running straight into a South African who is big and strong, it is going to be a tough day at the office.”
He said playing against the Springboks had an element of familiarity – with the South Africans knowing who he was.
“They had something to prove against me and I had something to prove against my home nation.
“Those were two very tough games,” he said about fronting up to the Boks.
And then there were those on-field chirps, such as the time when three Boks tackled him together and Francois Louw told him – in colourful language: “Not today!”
He described Schalk Burger as one of the nicest men ever.
* Don’t miss the next instalment of the Josh Strauss interview – when he reveals the ‘truth’ behind that beard!