Namibia’s baguette-loving captain Johan Deysel says he cannot wait to lead his side into Thursday’s Rugby World Cup pool match against France, a country where he spent half a decade of his life.
“I was there for five seasons, it was incredible for me and my family to live in France,” Deysel told AFP of his time at Colomiers, a team in the second-tier ProD2 based on the outskirts of Toulouse.
“I had two children here in France so, yes, very good memories for me there… I always miss the bread when I’m not in France!
“People are very friendly and generous, always willing to help,” he said.
“I’ll always come back for holidays to see friends I’ve made over the past five years. France is close to my heart now.”
Deysel touched down in Colomiers in November 2018 from South Africa, where he was on the books of the Sharks in Durban, as what is known a “medical joker”, to replace an injured player in the squad.
“He took very little time to sign up, eight or 10 days he was there,” club recruitment manager Yann Kergourlay said.
Kergourlay had had his eye on the centre since he watched him score Namibia’s sole try against in a 58-14 defeat by New Zealand at the 2015 World Cup.
“He’s the skipper, he played a great game and defensively he’s very solid,” the Colomiers man reminisced of the player who stands 1.84m (6ft) tall and weighs in at 93kg (14st 6lb).
“He’s also capable of busting the gainline. He’s not blessed with an extraordinary physique, but despite that he’s tough as teak in contact.”
– First name on the teamsheet –
Colomiers coach Julien Sarraute hailed Deysel as a “model team-mate”.
“He’s everywhere physically, covers lots of space and works non-stop for the team,” he said.
From a “medical joker”, the 31-year-old soon became the first name on the teamsheet.
“I saw him 15 minutes after the All Blacks match (in Toulouse last week), when I see the respect that people have for him, well frankly it doesn’t surprise me,” Kergourlay told AFP.
During his time at Colomiers, for whom Deysel played 75 times, the coaching staff were taken aback that no Top 14 clubs were interested in him.
“Unfortunately, that didn’t work out for him and I’m disappointed about that, I would have liked for him to have lived that adventure,” said coach Sarraute.
As Colomiers regrouped for this season, the decision was taken to not renew Deysel’s contract.
“I won’t hide from you that it was a super tough decision that I will certainly regret,” Sarraute said.
Not least because Deysel managed to seduce club officials at Colomiers, a traditional breeding ground of rugby players, not least France internationals Fabien Galthie, Jean-Luc Sadourny and current Les Bleus centre Yoram Moefana.
“He’s very calm with everyone, very zen, very relaxed. He’s someone who oozes well-being,” said Kergourlay.
– No insider information –
“He enjoyed a very important role in the squad,” said former France under-20s centre Fabrice Catala, who played alongside Deysel.
“He’s a serious guy, a hard worker who is always there despite the language barrier.”
Deysel said he loved living in the peaceful town of Pibrac and playing in France, a “special country” that had helped evolve his game.
“The French are very exciting rugby players, they like to move the ball around, they don’t like structure too much, they just like to play rugby, I learned that from them,” he told AFP.
“If there is an opportunity, you have to take it and just throw the ball around, enjoy rugby like when we started, when we were young, that’s how they play and you can even see it in the national team, they play an exciting brand of rugby, it improves my rugby as well.”
Deysel lamented the absence in the France team of lock Paul Willemse, a friend with whom he played for the Namibian under-18 team.
And among his former teammates at Colomiers was scrum-half Mathis Galthie, son of France coach Fabien, although Deysel was quick to say there had been no insider trading.
“No, I wish he had, but I don’t think tips would really help because the French team is very good and full of quality players!”
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