(By Ashfak Mohamed)
Peter Grant is one of those unassuming and quiet rugby players. But the Western Province and Springbok flyhalf has made a lot of noise on the field by establishing himself as one of the top No 10s in the country with a string of quality performances this season.
We sat down for an interview on Thursday with the 24-year-old pivot ahead of Saturday’s Currie Cup crunch against the Lions …
It’s been a bit of an up-and-down year for you, maybe not in terms of your form, but generally with injuries and lack of playing opportunities with the Springboks. How do you feel it’s gone?
Very much so. As you say, it has been very up and down. I felt my start to the season was great. My whole preparation for the Super 14 was awesome. I played in every game of the Super 14. I played week in, week out and most of the 80 minutes. It felt like a great start to the year. After that, being selected for the Springboks, it was still going up. The (lack of) game time obviously sets you back a little bit. Obviously, being a part of the Bok set-up is awesome. That’s where you wanna be. But the thing is that it was during the Super 14 that I started hurting my shoulder. Then it gradually started getting worse and worse. Then the Currie Cup came and I had to get it fixed.
Since then, I have been playing some rugby again, which has been nice. It has been good again. Now this little ankle is a little setback! But hopefully it won’t be much of a setback! So, it has been a bit up and down, but I am looking forward to the pre-season for the Super 14. Everybody is talking about that. But we’ve got some unfinished business to deal with at the moment.
How much of a setback was the shoulder injury?
It was a bit more than you may think. Since the end of the Super 14, I have been struggling to gym because of it. Come gym time, I have been pretty limited with regards to exercises and movements. It affects your strength and just your whole approach. Without knowing it, it has affected me quite a bit.
How’s the studies going? Remind us of what you are studying?
(Laughs) I’ve got some good news: I managed to finish it at the end of last year! I am over the moon about that! After the Tri-Nations trip and then the Barbarians trip, it was pretty touch and go! But I only had one subject luckily, because I was pretty busy with the rugby. It is just a general B Com Business Management at Maties. It took me a good couple of years!
I spent a lot of my off days trying to find notes and trying to meet lecturers! I am glad that is over, because the studying thing was always at the back of my mind. It has been nice for a change to just play rugby and not worry about it. It has been great.
Have you thought about what kind of work you want to do after rugby?
I’ve had many ideas, Ashfak. I wouldn’t mind becoming an astronaut! I don’t think my B Com is going to get me that far! But I grew up on a farm. I have been very into the agricultural thing. When I started at Stellenbosch, I actually started an agricultural degree, but coming from up north, my Afrikaans wasn’t so great! There was a lot of maths and stats in Afrikaans. So I just went for a general B Com. It was the better thing to do. Farming is my first love, so I would love to do something on the agricultural side of things. My parents farm sugar canes, so they are in the sugar industry.
You went to Maritzburg College, but you came to study at Maties. Why Stellenbosch, especially with the potential language barrier with the Afrikaans?
My father was adamant that I wasn’t making a career out of rugby, so I was getting a degree! My sister was studying at Maties, so we were always coming down to the Cape. My folks just felt that the Natal University set-up wasn’t quite the same as at Maties. My sister was two years ahead of me. It was always between UCT and Stellenbosch. Always.
I’ve also had a lot of friends from College who went to Maties and have told me how brilliant it is at Maties. I just heard so much about it. I think it was a nice change from growing up on the South Coast, near the Margate area, and then moving up to Maritzburg. I was a boarder at Maritzburg. Coming down to the Cape has opened my eyes a bit! It is the best decision I have ever made. Really. I am so, so happy here. I mean, Stellenbosch is the most ideal varsity. I know I have a biased opinion. I know Brok Harris will say that Potchefstroom is the best!
Maties do conduct dual-medium classes at the beginning, but through playing rugby, my Afrikaans has improved a lot. Since playing SA Schools with Ruan and Bismarck and just hearing it a lot more as opposed to never hearing it at school, it has started improving. I try to go out of my comfort zone and talk the language a bit. It has always brought a lot of laughs!
There are always whispers that the Sharks want to take you back home. So do you see yourself staying in wonderful Cape Town for the foreseeable future?
I get that all the time. I live with Sharks supporters and it is so irritating! I tell them to get over that already. I do see myself in Cape Town for the foreseeable future. Definitely. I grew up in Sharks territory and I’ve got family there, but I have slowly converted everyone, maybe not everyone, to become Province supporters!
But I am so happy here, Ashfak. They keep on giving me the whole guilt-trip scenario about “You have to go back to your roots”. But as far as I am concerned, the way Province have looked after me here, there’s no reason for me to move. There haven’t been any official approaches from the Sharks. As you say, just whispers here and there. But I haven’t been listening to them!
Do you or have you played any other sports?
I was a big cricketer. I was an opening batsman. Patience game! I was very slow! I was happy to sit there all day and see off the new ball! I played a lot of cricket actually. I played Natal Schools for two years. My last year was actually in Cape Town, which was ideal, as I just stayed over. I love my cricket and I still do. I have taken a break from it for quite a while, but like in the beginning of the year when we played against the Cobras, I loved playing in that. Last year, we played a game at Schalk Burger’s place. Myself and Schalk are always trying to organise little games. He is a keen cricketer. But I enjoy all sports. I play tennis socially and I played at school.
Has the golf bug bit you?
No, not really. I have got myself a set of clubs. Rob Linde got me a set of clubs when I first started at Province. We’ve got a lot of golf days, so I thought I must play a bit. But it never really excited me. I enjoy it every now and again, but 18 holes is a bit long. I would rather go fishing.
You appear to be a bit of a quiet guy. Have your team-mates ever poked fun at you about it?
The guys at Maties used to call me Silent Piet, like in the Afrikaans Piet! That was quite funny. I have always been a bit quiet. Coaches have really come hard at me because I was too quiet, especially for a flyhalf. But it has gradually improved because of the position I am playing. And being more vocal on the field has led to me becoming a little bit more vocal off the field, but I am still quiet.
But you are a deadly defender on the field and you are very physical. Is that an alternate persona on the field?
I have always liked the physical stuff on the field. But I have always rather let my actions speak as opposed to being a loudmouth. That has kind of been my motto.
What interests you off the field, outside of rugby?
Studying wasn’t a hell of an interesting thing! All sport interests me, even as a spectator. I enjoy watching sport as well. Fishing is probably my main thing off the field. I love the outdoors, just to get out there and clear the mind a bit, it’s brilliant. Myself and Schalk Brits actually took Harley Davidsons for test drives yesterday. So maybe I must become a biker! So we are maybe looking at bikes. But I think I will stick to four wheels!
Who would you say is your favourite player of all time or someone that you admired?
Henry Honiball. He was the man. He was one of those guys who were also very quiet and a reserved kind of player whose actions spoke louder than he did. I really enjoyed watching him play. I definitely base my style on him. Watching him when I was growing up, I wanted to be like him!
Who is your best mate in the WP side and why?
I get along with everyone in the team! Francois Louw is my room-mate on tour and he is a good guy. He is also very quiet, but he has a little bit of a naughty streak in him! I will leave it at that!
Is there something we should know?!
(Laughs) It is just that you wouldn’t expect him to do some of the things he does, as he is so quiet. He is just very enthusiastic. I also just love old Ricky and Bolla! They come on to the field and off the field they just keep everybody’s spirit up. Bolla may look like he just wants to entertain the crowd, but he entertains us just as much!
Where did your nickname “Bash” originate?
My folks. I’ve had that nickname since I was a baby. I was a fat, clumsy kid. I was a little tubby, hey! I was a fat little bugger and I used to bash into everything! I was very clumsy. It only really stuck in Standard Eight. My folks called me that and my friends heard and it caught on. Everybody thinks it has something to do with my rugby, but that isn’t the case.
You told me when you were injured that you wanted to go on the Bok tour and that you had the last month of the Currie Cup to prove yourself. How has it gone for you?
It’s been all right, but I will only say all right because I have felt that I have lost a bit of fitness, being off and that. I am just not totally match fit. I have been there and thereabouts, but playing more and game time is most important. It is just getting that confidence back.
You will face one of your likely rivals for the Springbok flyhalf berth in Earl Rose on Saturday. What have you thought of his play this year, as well as his nightmare outing last week?
I think he is one of those deceptive players. You’ve got to keep an eye on him and be careful. He is like a Giteau. He is always getting the ball from nine and is making the plays the whole time. He goes quietly about his business and all of a sudden he will pull something out of the bag. That step from him is quite something. It is quite dramatic. It’s bloody good!
He sums up the game very well, so we have to keep an eye out for him. But having said that, they have a pretty good all-round team and you can’t just focus too much on one player. It will be a good test for us.
His performance last week can happen to anybody. I didn’t watch the whole game, but everyone has that really poor game. So I don’t think we should read too much into that. If anything, he may have a bit of low confidence. But I don’t think Earl is one of those people that will allow it to get him down. He would’ve forgotten about it already and that is what you should do.
Does the duel between you and Earl make it a sort of trial match for you?
No, I don’t think it will be like a trial match at all. I think you’ve got to look at one’s consistent performances, especially at that level. You don’t play one major good game and make the Springbok side. But having said, you do want to go out and prove to everyone that you can handle it.
Saturday’s match against the Lions is a massive one. We all know the semi-final permutations, but how do you as players deal with that kind of pressure?
We made a few mistakes early on in the season that we can’t change now, so that has been the attitude this week. We can’t look back. We’ve got to deal with the situation now and get 20 points above the Lions. We know that we are a team that can put 20, 30 or 40 points on the board in the first half quickly. If you look at the Cheetahs game in the Super 14, we got the bonus point in the first half. But we said that we would leave it out on the pitch. We will go out with guns blazing. We know what we have to achieve.
The Currie Cup is a similar scenario to the last Super 14 match when the Stormers needed a bonus-point win over the Lions to reach the semi-finals. Have WP taken anything from that experience to help you on Saturday?
Ja, definitely. When I got back from Tri-Nations, I had a look at that game again and I just felt that we played a really good game. We had opportunities early on, which we just didn’t take. But I really felt that the Lions defended extremely well that day.
I can’t fault the way we played much. We went through the phases and we had brilliant attacking opportunities. We fumbled one or two opportunities, which is unfortunately the difference at this level. If the ball bounces our way on Saturday, it could be a walk in the park, otherwise it could be another difficult situation.
Can WP reach the playoffs?
Yes. Easy! We know we can do it. I maybe shouldn’t say that it would easy! But that is the mindset we should have. We must be confident.Tweet