Stofberg: The perfect blindside flank
Marthinus Theunis Steyn Stofberg, otherwise known as Theuns, is a Springbok legend.
He played in 21 Tests between 1976 and 1984, he was a classic No.7 (in SA terms he is a blindside flank). At 1.96 meters and 109kgs in his heyday, he was the perfect ball carrier with silky skills, great line-out option and more steady on defence.
Theuns has the remarkable achievement of representing three provinces in the Currie Cup competition – Free State, Northern Transvaal and Western Province. He is also the only South African to have sipped bubbly out of Sir Donald's donation, the famous gold cup, for all three.
One of my unforgettable Stofberg moments, was the try between him and Gerrie Germishuys against Billy Beaumont's 1980 British and Irish Lions in the third Test in Port Elizabeth.
From a quick line-out they outsmarted Clive Woodward and scored a try in the corner – which not only won the Test, but also put the Boks 3-0 up in the series, taking revenge for the loss to Willie-John McBride's great Lions team of 1974.
He formed a formidable loose trio with Morné du Plessis and Rob Louw.
1. Do you have a nickname and what is the origin of it?
ANSWER: My name was Theunis with an 'I' until I started to play senior rugby and then it changed to Theuns. I think, it was easier and shorter to be used by Spiekeries, Gerhard Viviers, when he did the commentary with the rugby games. When your surname is Stofberg, the chances are excellent that your nickname will be Stoffies like all of my brothers, sisters and other family. As a teenager my mom called me Toontjies. That was the only thing she saw when she came to wake me up in the morning. The blankets were pulled over my head and my feet were open at the bottom of the bed. When I played rugby in Italy my name, Theuns, was difficult to pronounce, but, Martino was a typical Italian name. So they called me Martino because of my first name, Marthinus.
2. How many Tests and how many tries?
ANSWER: I played 21 Test matches and six tries. The first one was in 1976, the 2nd Test match against the All Blacks and my last Test was against John Scott's England side in 1984. It was also a privilege to play against the Irish, the 1980 Lions, in 1980 Hugo Porta's South American side and a Test against France in 1980. In 1977 there was only one Test against the World XV of Willie John McBride at the opening of the new Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
3. What can you remember from your first Test and the night before?
ANSWER: I played my first Test in Bloemfontein against the All Blacks. It was with the second Test of the series that I had to fill Jan Ellis' position. It was my homeground and that made it easier on the nerves because I just turned 21 a month earlier and I had to face a heavyweight like 31-year-old Ian Kirkpatrick, one of the best flank forwards New Zealand ever had. To motivate us they showed us the movie of the second Test in 1970 between Dawie de Villiers' Springbok side and the All Blacks – also called the 'Blood Test. That made me a nervous wreck, but the experienced Rampie Stander was my roommate and Jan Boland Coetzee my flank partner. This helped to calm me down. You can ask any Springbok player and he will tell you that the first Test passes so quickly that you can't remember much. All I can call to mind is how I got hold of Sid Going's pants only by the tip of my fingers when he tried to pass me. Was it not for that he could have easily scored.
4. Favourite stadium and most intimidate stadium to play at?
ANSWER: At the end of my career I didn't really have a favourite stadium, but, during one's playing days you prefer your home ground as the favourite stadium. Because I played for Free State for the first three years, three years for Northern Transvaal and later on four years for WP. All three stadiums – Free State Stadium, Loftus Versfeld and Newlands – were at different stages my favourite. Any field in New Zealand field is intimidating!
5. Funniest thing to happen on a rugby field?
ANSWER: There were several things on the field that made me smile. Incidents like when I saw Martiens le Roux's dummy, Wouter Hugo's face when he threw the ball in with a line-out and the ball left his hand before he meant to, and he realized it's not going to land where he was aiming at. One of the funniest things was when Gerrie Sonnekus made his typical remarks in a line-out. The Free State team beat the Transvaal side by 53-9 that specific day. The previous night we watched a comic movie of a little goat [Bokkie] that destroyed everything. It was almost at the end of the game when he walked up to the line-out, and he made the remark: "Boys, today we f.&^@#.. them up like that little bokkie!"
6. Who were your heroes?
ANSWER: Like all boys in South Africa that love rugby the old Springboks were my heroes, but, Dawie de Villiers, Frik du Preez and Jan Ellis were my utmost heroes. That's why it was such an honour when I had to fill the position of Jan Ellis.
7. Most difficult opponent?
ANSWER: It is difficult to choose between the names of Ian Kirkpatrick, Jean-Pierre Rives, Fergus Slattery and John O'Driscoll. The one was difficult in the line-out, the other much faster on the loose ball and the other to fight against for the ball in the loose scrum.
8. Which team is the ultimate 'Test'?
ANSWER: It will always be the ultimate Test match when the All Blacks play against the Springboks.
9. Why are the All Blacks so good?
ANSWER: When you visit New Zealand and you make contact with the people of that country, you realize that in South Africa rugby is almost a religion, but in New Zealand it is more than a religion. The discipline in their team I believe is what make them such an outstanding side. You can experience from a distance the professional way they play.
10. Favourite captain and favourite opposing captain?
ANSWER: I played the most of my Test matches under the captaincy of Morné du Plessis. He really had something special to lead a team. My first opposing captain was Hugo Porta of Argentina.
11. Did you hang out with opponents of other countries after the game?
ANSWER: That is the time where one really made friends. Before the shower some of us took a carrypack of cold beer to the opponents' cloakroom. We sat there for almost an hour talking and laughing about the things that happened in the game, but, also caught up with the normal stuff that happened in each one's life. We tried to avoid the cocktail party as long as one could, because there you have to answer all that difficult questions like: "Why did you knock the ball?", "Why didn't you kick the ball out?", "Why didn't you do this?" and "Why didn't you do that?". We just wanted to have a good time with our rugby friends.
12. Are you still friends with some of them?
ANSWER: A lesson I learned from a young boy in Italy was when he told me once after a game: "Rugby is not about winning or losing, however, a way of making friends". That stuck with me till this day. Some of the best friends I have is opponents that I played against. Peter Wheeler of England and John O'Driscoll from Ireland are just two I can mention. Such kind of friends that I could recommend my children to visit them and they'll feel at home with complete strangers.
12. What's on your bucket list?
ANSWER: My bucket list is one of beautiful places I want to see over the world. To do that I organize tours for groups of friends to any place in the world. During a tour like that I make friends for the rest of my life. We visited several places like the Caribbean Islands, Canada's Rocky Mountains, Italy, Norway, France and Greece. Next on the list are Croatia and the beautiful Pipi islands.
13. What must be written on your grave stone?
ANSWER: I decided not to have a grave, but, if somebody wants to say something about me I would like it to be that I lived a happy, peaceful and significant life and that with the help of God I could play some kind of role in their happiness.
AussieBoer (Kevin D)