A few weeks ago we sat down for a chat with Gurthro Steenkamp. The following is a quick summary of our discussion
IMPRESSIVE RUGBY DNA
First of all, just a quick reminder of Gurthro's career path: he was part of a very successful BULLS team in South Africa along with with teammates which included the likes of Victor Matfield & Bakkies Botha. In 2011 he joined French club Toulouse and helped them win several titles (Top14 champions in 2011 & 2012). Oh, and we forgot to mention his 53 caps with the Springboks! So in terms of rugby DNA it doesn’t get much better.
NOT READY TO HANG UP HIS BOOTS YET
At 36 he recently signed as a medical joker with Paris based club Stade Francais The first impression you get from meeting Gurthro Steenkamp is that this is a guy who is relaxed and very much enjoying his current situation. Not that he’s taking his role at Stade Francais lightly — quite the opposite in fact. But physically he’s in good shape and he hasn’t felt so good in years. Some of this perhaps comes down to the fact that this is most likely his last club before he retires. Plus he no longer has the same pressure as a younger player might feel when starting out on a career. Gurthro Steenkamp has nothing to prove. Or maybe he has…
TOULOUSE MAFIA IN PARIS
Last year Toulouse went through a major overhaul at the club (new president, new coaches etc). It was one of those page turning events that happens in most clubs when one era ends and another begins. Having spent seven years at the club, Gurthro knew his time was up. He’s not in any way bitter and fully understands how and why these things happen. Steenkamp could probably have hung up his boats at this stage but told his agent he had an open mind if any decent propositions came up. So when Stade Francais expressed an interest, he came to Paris for some trials. The Parisian coaches were sufficiently impressed (and even surprised) by his level of fitness and a deal was struck which saw Gurthro packing his bags and heading for Paris to begin the next chapter of his rugby career! As a result he joins a number other former Toulouse club mates such as Census Johnston and Patricio Albacete have also found themselves in Paris (both are now with Racing92).
GOOD PROPS ARE HARD TO FIND
Stade Francais recently went through their own bit of turmoil (new owner & management). But props - good props - are especially hard to come by. Stade Francais had a number of injuries and departures for that slot and any club that has any sort of serious ambitions simply cannot hope to have an impact without a couple of loose head props within its ranks.
THOUSANDS OF SCRUMS ON THE CLOCK So, at 36 and with thousands of scrums on the clock, a player’s body starts to send out signals to it’s owner! And this was the case with Gurthro Steenkamp. Which pushed him a couple of years ago to revisit his whole approach to sport & training. He became a bit more "scientific" about his diet but above all it was the direction of his physical training which changed mostly. With a new workout coach he went back to basics - the fundamentals (strength, core work etc).
Together they broke down and took a fresh look at the exercises required for a prop, especially a loose head prop. They did them differently and with more efficiency. He began to test his body in new ways and pushed it to spaces it was not that familiar with. I guess you could say that he moved "out of the comfort zone”. And the results have been impressive.
RECOVERY IS KEY
Rugby has changed and continues to change. The impacts are huge and the body needs to be prepared both pre and post match. Gurthro attaches great significance to a proper post-match recovery session. Most guys will just grab a shower and a beer but Steenkamp takes a bit more time to help the body readjust and get it back into gear. It may seem small, but small margins can make all the difference.
We wish Gurthro every success in his chapter with Stade Francais and beyond. There’s a bit more fuel in his tank still. And as well as his value as a player, he must also be an invaluable asset for the younger scrummagers in the Paris club who should be able to gain from his level of professionalism and his scrum insights!
You may follow Gurtho Steenkamp on social media here: Twitter: @gurthro Instagram: @ggsteenkamp Gurthro’s agent: Damien Dussault (@damiendussault)