Watson speaks out

Luke Watson believes his comments about puking on the Springbok jersey were ‘twisted’ by the media.

In his first interview since the incident, Watson spoke frankly to Cape Town radio station Heart 104.9 about being booed, the Stormers Super 14 season, his comments about the Springbok jersey and being overlooked for the Springbok training squad.

Here are some of the key points covered in the interview –

Whether the initial booing in the earlier part of the campaign helped him perform better this season.
‘It was something that we had to get around as a team, not only as an individual. But ultimately it helped me, it encouraged me, it pushed me and motivated me. It was something that within a game or two had just become a complete nonentity and we just carried on with our duties and the job at hand.’

What he believed helped the Stormers find form at the end of the season.
‘One of the more encouraging things was that we had a lot of our youngsters coming through and youthful ignorance can sometimes be a good thing. They came in with a very fresh outlook and mindset and all of a sudden there was running rugby, the tries were coming and there was a completely different atmosphere and vibe within the side.’

Whether there was any truth to the rumours of unrest within the Stormers change room.
‘There were always accusations and rumours floating around, but within the Stormers camp we’re a very tight bunch of guys and we have some incredible friendships that have been forged over the years. So to say that anything really changed within the side would be a lie and I think that at one stage when things weren’t going well people started to look for any excuse or reason for why things aren’t going well. Having said that, a lot of the senior guys did get injured and when they got injured it changed the dynamics within the side completely and in most sides that would have a negative impact but on our side it had quite a positive impact.’

Whether his comments surrounding the Springbok jersey polarised South Africa.
‘Before you look at the way the comments were perceived, I think you have to look at the way they were portrayed and that was even more of a sad situation for me. And that is part of the reason I just don’t do media anymore because unfortunately 99% of the things I’ve said in the media have been twisted or portrayed in a negative way.’

Whether he would like to clarify what was said.
‘Basically I just let the thing be because it became such a whirlwind, where I was being attacked from all sides and things are changed and twisted in so many ways that you just don’t know where to begin. The whole situation was actually a very positive one before it was twisted. It was illegally taped, they held certain text out of it, they kept certain transcripts out of it so by the time I read what I supposedly said in the papers it was a completely different story and different context. I was disillusioned, and I still am, with many aspects in South Africa as many people are. My industry of choice is rugby and there are certain aspects within rugby – transformation being one of those – that I was disillusioned with. Being someone who is heavily involved, I am fully aware that transformation hasn’t been approached the way it should.’

Whether he said he felt like puking on the Springbok jersey or not.
‘I said there were aspects of South African that made me feel nauseous at times. The fact of the matter was that it was a whole bunch of mates of mine my age and younger than me, and if I had have stood up there and given them some sort of dialect or vocabulary that they never heard that would fly over their heads. Whatever words I did use, the principle behind it remains the same and I still believe that many aspects of South African rugby have not adopted and embraced transformation. Even in South African society there is a long way to go. We’ve done an incredible job and I’m very positive about this country, but I was voicing my opinions and some of my concerns about the industry I am in.’

If he would ever consider moving to another franchise.
‘Not at the moment. I have had this conversation with the CEO of Western Province Rugby Rob Wagner and I’ve said I am just absolutely passionate and dedicated to the Stormers and Western Province. My number one loyalty and allegiance at the moment would be to Western Province and the Stormers and I have just recently entered into negotiations to extend my contract for another two years.’

His thoughts on Chris Jack joining Western Province.
‘I think that it’s awesome. He is a fantastic player and arguably one of the best locks of his era. He’ll bring a lot of experience and he’s also been performing really well at the moment so it is really going to strengthen and bolster our forward pack.’

What he felt about missing out on the Springbok training squad and his view on Peter de Villiers only rating him as third in the list of No 8s in the country.
‘If Peter rates me third, fourth, fifth or sixth or even the best, then that is his opinion and he has every right to have it and even voice it. From my side, I’ve been pretty happy with my performances so far this season, but there is a lot of room for improvement. It’s always wonderful to be acknowledged as one of the best players in the country and in your particular position and if that acknowledgment had to come it would be a great pat on the back.’