Springboks and Montpellier rugby star, Pierre Spies: “God radically changed my life”

This week we caught up with Springboks and Montpellier number eight, Pierre Spies, about settling in France and his walk with Jesus.

So Pierre let’s start with where you are right now, how are you settling in at Montpellier, happy with your start?

Very good thank you, it is a big shift to move your family to a new country. Montpellier has been very good for us, my kids are in school here learning French, my wife is learning French, I am learning French and we are just enjoying the lifestyle here. I am very thankful to be able to play here and I am enjoying every moment of it.

 

What’s been your favourite thing about France so far?

There is a two-hour lunch basically everyday between twelve and two. For me, just the enjoyment that they have with eating and their way of life is a lot more laid back.

 

So you went to school in Pretoria with some big names that have now gone on to become greats, could you see that happening, even back then?

Yes absolutely, they were talented sportsmen from the start and they were the year before me so I know them in school. It is so great to see them reaching these heights in their careers and also being strong Christians. I am really happy for them and very proud that we went to the same school.

 

So at what point did you decide that you wanted to pursue pro Ruby?

I must say it helped me a lot, coming from a school like Pretoria but there comes a point in your life where you have to make a decision for yourself, to start training hard and to make a career of it. The rest is history, there were so many things that played a role in it but I reckon I was about seventeen when I started pursuing a professional career and started working hard and being focussed towards what I wanted to achieve.

 

Could you tell us how you came to know God for yourself?

My parents were Christians so we grew up going to church, reading the bible and praying. My parents are also ministers but I discovered him for myself and was born again when I was twenty years old. This came after losing my way in that I wasn’t living my life for God. When I was twenty God radically changed my life and radically changed my career, his purpose in my life just started to take off because I pursued him with everything that I had.

 

You represented South Africa for seven years, is there a proudest moment in there somewhere?

There are many moments, we’ve had some great moments in the teams that I’ve played in. I think one highlight was in the year of 2009 where we won the Tri Nations in New Zealand and also beat the Lions. Playing in my fiftieth test, my debut and all those things are little milestones which I am very proud of. There are some great memories with great teammates.

 

How has knowing God impacted on your Rugby career?

Well firstly, I think it is to realise that God created me just like all of us and he gave us talent. It is about recognising who God is and giving him glory through what we do. Secondly it’s about understanding the impact that we have on people’s lives as professional sportsmen and making sure that we utilise that influence correctly. Being a professional sportsman can open up many doors and if we choose to be wise and walk in love then we can affect change for the kingdom of God.

 

Around the Rugby circuit, do you find people are receptive to talk of God, or is it tough to break in?

I found it easy when you do your job really well and gain the respect of your teammates. That really gives you an opportunity to speak to them about it but also you need a lot of wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit. I believe that when we do things well, the people that we want to minister to will respect us and it helps to open that door. Then again, with what I am experiencing here in Europe, people have a different idea about religion and God. There are a lot of walls that need to be broken down if we want to share the gospel with them. We need to understand where people are coming from and trust God more than ever. The greatest thing about it as an individual is that you get stretched and you grow in any new environment.

Who would you say is the best player that you have ever faced and why?

That’s a very tough question. I think it would be wrong to say just one person because there are so many good rugby players in the world. I would rather go with that answer!

 

As a Christian is it hard to know where to draw the line with aggression on the field, is it hard not to get carried away?

I think it is really important that you play hard and that you don’t ever stand back. What I also think is important is that you should put a guard on your mouth because retaliating with foul words or insults doesn’t bring glory to God at all. There is nothing wrong with playing hard and then pushing the boundaries of the game itself but I believe that when we are misusing our mouths that’s a problem.

 

How do you use the sporting platform that God has given you to point others to him?

Your life is your strongest testimony at the end of the day so it is about how you are on the pitch, consistently, from the pitch to being at home. We don’t want to say one thing and do another and I believe that our strongest testimony is simply to align our lives with what God is saying. When we are able to depend on God he can do great things.

Pierre on the physical side of things you are known for being a serious unit, is that power your biggest asset as a number eight?

Where I am at this stage of my career, I feel it is about improving as an all-rounder player. Power has its limits when you are playing against guys that are much bigger and stronger anyway, so you have to utilise what you have to be an effective player. So for me it is important to be an effective player and influence the game in whatever I do.

 

How does God feature in your pre-match routine, anything special that you do?

For me I just like to spend some good time in prayer in the morning, long before the game. Then before the game itself I listen to praise music in order to strengthen my spirit, Christians in the team will pray together and then we go out onto the pitch.

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