CAPTAIN COURAGEOUS IS A TITLE OFTEN ASSOCIATED WITH THE current Springbok rugby captain. Corné Krige is a hard working, motivated rugby player. His bulldozing tackles and competitive nature in rucks and mauls has made him a top challenger in world rugby. His name is synonymous with passion and a rugged attacking style of play.

“People sometimes doubt our passion, but it is a massive honour to play for the Springboks,” he says. “The day I stop feeling passion for the game, I’ll know it’s time to pack it in.”

Corné Krige was born in Lusaka, Zambia on March 21, 1975 (ironically, in the same hospital as the Australian captain, George Gregan) and spent his first six years in Zambia. He started playing rugby at the age of 9 while still at junior school in Paarl. Corné was a natural athlete and was soon into athletics and swimming as well.

The early influences on his life came from his teachers, as well as the host family he stayed with. (His parents were still in Zambia and there were no boarding facilities at the school). But the biggest influences came from his rugby coaches, especially while in high school. They motivated him to continue his career in rugby after school. Paarl Boys High was a huge influence in teaching him discipline and passion for whatever he tackled in life. God was already at work in his life, developing qualities and characteristics that were to stand him in good stead in later years.

When Corne was still at high school he had a definite encounter with the claims of Christ on his life. A group came to his school and simply explained the real meaning of Christianity and the way of salvation. “They invited us to open up our hearts to the Saviour and invite Him into our lives. I responded and raised my hand at the appeal and felt peace. I knew that I had met with God and felt His presence in an unmistakable way.”

Corné was still young and easily influenced by his peers, so this decision did not make a radical difference to his life. He continued playing rugby and making his mark as captain of the school team and eventually the Western Province and South African Schools teams.

Corné’s early sporting career taught him the essential characteristics of discipline, personal relationships and working together in a team environment, as well as respect for other people. He soon learned that being a captain meant he had to accept all the members of the team. He had to become the ultimate team player.

Corné finally made his test debut in 1999 after fighting his way back from career-threatening knee and hand injuries. He was, undoubtedly, South Africa’s star player during the 2002 Vodacom Super 12 and in the Rugby World Cup he will be looking to repeat his spectacular performances.

Captaincy comes naturally to Corné, but it’s not an easy calling. As captain, he can never be late and never lose his temper on the field. Players look to him when under pressure. But for Corné, the most difficult thing about being a high profile rugby player is the loss of privacy. “When you are young, you think it is great to have all that public attention, but in reality it can be a real burden to lose your privacy. People know where you live so they come past your house and blow their hooters and shout things. And the older I have become, the more difficult it is to handle. But, I suppose sometime it will come to an end and then I can get on with a normal life.”

What about his Christian faith? “About two years ago I recommitted my life at a local Assemblies of God church. God spoke to me very directly and I knew it was time to fully commit my life to Jesus. The pastor spoke about the farmer in Luke 13 who thought he had arrived. He had good crops and needed to pull down his old barns and build new and bigger ones. He felt he didn’t need God. I had just sold my old house and built a new and bigger one, so I felt the message was appropriate for me. At the appeal, I went forward for counselling and this has been a spiritual turning point in my life.

“I felt that I had to tell Cobus Visagie. He is the leader of the team prayer group and Bible study and has been a wonderful example to me as well as the rest of the team. He said I mustn’t take this lightly. God has given me the opportunity to serve Him and I must utilise it and use my influence for Him.”

Corné’s conversion experience has not changed him into a choirboy. He is still a determined and tigerish loose forward who gives 100 percent in every game. But his relationship with God has grown. He is grateful for the support of his fellow believers and the back-up of a Bible believing church where he is free to express his devotion to Christ. Here he can bring the same passion to his faith as he shows every time he runs onto the field. •