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Paulse’s charmed life

Submitted by on Saturday, 7 March 2009No Comment
Paulse’s charmed life

The much-capped Bok wing tells us about his idyllic childhood, and the two talent spotters who put him on the road to success.

What sort of childhood did you have?

I had a very happy childhood. I grew up on a farm. When I look back, especially after my life became so hectic, I really miss the space and freedom of the farm. The peace and quiet there is wonderful. I was brought up by a single mother and my grandparents.

They must be enormously proud of you?

Yah, they were. A couple of years ago I took my grandpa on a plane, I took him to Namibia for a few days, he was just so happy to get on a plane for the first time; although my grandma wouldn’t put a foot on it. But they were really strict when I grew up and they instilled the right fundamentals in me.

The words ‘gang’ and ‘coloured’ seem inextricably linked – were you ever pressurised into joining a gang?

Fortunately on the farm it is way different to Cape Town. In the Cape Flats, the gangs are busy and control areas, but none of that happens on the farm. We were too busy working. It was calm. We were never exposed to things like apartheid; we were never exposed to violence – it was peaceful. Even today when I need a break I go to the farm – there I am still simply known as, ‘Breyton from the farm’. I couldn’t have had a happier upbringing.

What sort of farm was it?

It was apples, pears, peaches and also potatoes and onions – no wine – just fruit and vegetables.

Then you went to Stellenbosch University?

Yes, that was an eye-opener. On the farm, just before Christmas, the farmer would give his bus to the community and they would go into Cape Town and only a couple of kids could go with. I was already in standard nine the first time I went – so when I went to Stellenbosch it was like a big city for me. I was actually very scared. I wanted to work on the farm; the usual was to do school sports and then go work on the farm. But because of the bursary Mr Du Toit, the farm owner gave me; I went to Stellenbosch to study. If it wasn’t for mum and Mr Du Toit, I wouldn’t have gone.

What did you study?

A BA degree in human movement studies; not even in my wildest dreams did I think I would be a professional rugby player. I arrived there as a no-name brand. Mr Du Toit just thought I had some talent and he said I should go to University.

Stellenbosch is by all accounts a conservative place – did you ever experience any racism there?

No – none. Even when I went into town I never had any bad experiences. Maybe I was lucky? I made a lot of friends but I never had a problem. Some of my mates did, but I was fine.

How did your rugby career start?

My big break came when I was playing for a third league Koshuis team and I was spotted by the late Tjammy Jankelson. He was like a mini Doc Craven. He just spotted guys – it didn’t matter if they played in the sixth team – and he was right nine times out of ten. So I got selected to play for one of the many teams out of which they were going to choose the Matie (Stellenbosch) team. I just got that little gap and fortunately that’s where it all happened for me.

What position did you play?

Fly-half. I had always played there; I was captain and fly half for my school. Only when Western Province recognised me and they wanted to make space for me, did I change position. I wasn’t keen to play wing, but I wanted to play for Province.

Given a perfect world – when you look back, what position would you like to have played?

I would have loved to play fly-half. I could kick with both feet and I liked to make play happen. I’m not saying I would have been great, but it would have been interesting if I was allowed to pursue it.

You also played cricket. If you hadn’t succeeded in rugby how well do you think you could have done at cricket?

I’m not sure. That’s a tough question. I always loved rugby so much. The people on the farm loved rugby and when I went back to the farm after a game against the Blue Bulls – half the workers were Bulls supporters and the rest were Province supporters – the chirping and rivalry was wonderful. But I think if you can play sport, you can fit in with any game. I mean I played football for my Koshuis team and I was their top goal scorer – I was left wing. So it’s difficult to know if I had focused on another sport, what would have happened.

What’s your golf like?

I never used to like the game. I thought it was boring. But last year in February I started playing and now I’m absolutely hooked. In a year I’ve got my handicap down to 12 and I’m mad about it.

Back to rugby; Nick Mallet used to leave you out of the Springbok team, ostensibly because you were small. What was your relationship with him like?

It was a bit dodgy at times. Nick was a chap who preferred big, staunch guys. It was really difficult for me. At the time I was the top try scorer in Super 14, I was playing well and I thought I was at the level where I deserved a chance; but I also kept the team’s interests in mind. Although I wasn’t going to lie down and let it break me. I just waited for my chance. And then fortunately in that game against the All Blacks I had an opportunity to prove a point and I scored the try that won the game; which was very satisfying, because I think in a way, it showed him he was wrong.

How did you get on with your next coach, Jake White?

He actually gave me a second life. I was going to go overseas, but when Ashwin Willemse got injured, Jake asked me to come back. We got on very well. Also I was one of the senior guys at the time – which was great.

You didn’t make the World Cup squad. How disappointing was that?

It was disappointing. Jake always liked Ashwin – although the guy wasn’t ready to play – I think he only played one World Cup game over there? Also Ndungane was the other wing; he also didn’t play much – also only one game, I think. I suppose we can debate the whole thing; but I’m not bitter at all and it didn’t affect my relationship with Jake. I still see him at golf days and we get on well. I’m really happy the guys won, as for three years I was part of it. I’m just happy I was blessed with such a long career.

Talking about that, you are one of only eight Springboks to have played fifty or more games?

Yes, in the end I played 64 games for them. Initially I couldn’t ever have dreamt of making fifty games. But if you take it game by game, it’s very up and down; eventually I suppose you get there. So many things happen so quickly; you lose form, other players come through; but you take your chances. Imagine having a career where everything just fell into place?

How did you enjoy winning Player of the Year in 2000?

That was amazing!

Did you expect it?

I had an above average year, but I was contending with some serious guys; Andre Venter, Joost, really wonderful players. I was lucky – although I think I was the top scorer for province and the Boks that year. But rugby is a team thing – without the team I obviously couldn’t have done it.

When you look back; your 64 games; your Player of the Year award; etc., what was your proudest moment?

I think you can ask any player, but when I played my first game – my debut for the Springboks – that was the biggest thing. I worked so hard to get to that level and when it came there was a lot of emotion; there was laughter and there were tears; there were sleepless nights; the whole crazy build up. And only after the first five minutes of the game did it all go away – but until then… that first game was such an amazing week in my life.

After your third try against Italy you did a somersault, which later became your trademark. Had you planned it?

No. I never planned it – but after my third try; my first game; my mum was there; Mr Du Toit and his family were there; I was just overwhelmed and I had to do it. I had learned it on the farm and I just did it out of adrenaline and happiness.

Can you still do it?

Yes. The other day in Port Elizabeth I made my first Eagle and I said to my caddie, ‘Buddy, just hold this club’, and I did a somersault for my four-ball. They loved it – it was a special moment.

You played rugby in France; how did you enjoy that?

It was very interesting. We would play some sides which, when they came to us, we would klap 64 – 0. Then, when we played at their ground, strangely they would narrowly beat us. The one time there were two guys fighting; just like a boxing match. The referee let them carry on for two or three minutes and only then gave them yellow cards. Rugby in France was weird. But I really enjoyed it and I made some good friends there.

Did you learn to speak French?

I did hey. For six months I had a teacher come in every day. Another year and I think I would have been completely fluent.

You are obviously in perfect shape; what do you do to stay in such good form?

I’m not sure if you know, but I’m going to cycle the next Cape Epic. It is about 700/800 km over 8 days. So I’ve been cycling a lot. I’m doing it for a charity called JAG, which helps under privileged kids. Mind you after my training I’m beginning to think the whole thing’s crazy and I’m getting nervous…

Funny, after all the things you have faced. Tell me about your nascent music career?

I have always wanted to play drums and I met Danny Peterson who plays drums for David Kramer and he is teaching me.

But you also made a CD?

Do you know all my sins? (Laughs) Yes that was a bit of fun. It was sponsored by the SABC – it was also for charity. It was really a cool six months of singing and going crazy; and a different world hey? But I won’t do that again. We sold about 15,000 copies, but now I shy away if people want me to sing.

Being a small guy – have you ever had idiots, or drunks come up to you in a pub and challenge you?

No never. Guys make fun sometimes and maybe want to tackle me or something, although always in a fun way. But I have never had anyone come up and want to bliksem me…

What are you doing now?

I do a bit of work for SuperSport. I’ve got one or two sideline businesses going on, motivational speaking and stuff; but I’m just trying to relax now. Oh, and I do some work for various charities. All in all I’m quite happy where I am. You know, you work so hard for such a long time and eventually you want to rest. Also I think I must now look for a wife…

I thought there would have been a queue down the road?


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