Cronje's trail of misfortune

HARARE - It's  always the punch that you don’t see coming which knocks you out.

For Guy Cronje that lights-out punch landed in 2015 just when all the pieces of his rugby career were falling into place.

Even now, two years after being diagnosed with melanoma cancer and a specialist advised him he could never play rugby again, the memory still follows him like a shadow.

Melanoma is a form of skin cancer which forced Cronje to prematurely end his career.

“It’s just one thing that is difficult to get over,” Guy tells the Daily News from his base in Durban, South Africa.

“It is a very scary situation. It’s never a nice thing to hear you have cancer, especially at my age. You don’t get a chance to choose your last game. You don’t end your career on your own terms.”

Before the illness set in, Guy had answered Zimbabwe’s call in 2014 when the country was just three victories away from qualifying for the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.

He went on to star at flyhalf during the 2015 Rugby World Cup qualifiers in Madagascar where the Sables came agonisingly close to their first World Cup qualification in 23 years.

Leading Kenya 24-10, a fourth try would have earned Zimbabwe a bonus point which would have put them beyond the reach of a chasing Namibia, who were scheduled to play Madagascar later in the day.

The Sables were awarded a penalty deep into Kenyan territory and had an opportunity to seal qualification with a five pointer but mixed signals from the technical bench saw Guy kick for post.

It played to the advantage of Namibia, who now needed to score 56 points past Madagascar to edge Zimbabwe and claim qualification.

The Welwitschias seized that opportunity and easily eclipsed that score against a flat Madagascar.

“Yeah, that moment still lingers in my memory and wish we went for the try and instead of that decision but yes that’s how it is,” Guy notes.

While Guy followed his roots, his twin brother Ross, decided to soldier on in pursuit of that elusive Springbok cap with most Zimbabweans thinking he had made the wrong choice.

At that time, Ross was way down the pecking order of Springbok scrumhalves with the likes of Fourie du Preez, Francois Hougaard and Rudy Paige being favoured.

But Ross later blossomed with his Super Rugby franchise the Lions in a half back pairing with Elton Jantjies which saw him land on the radar of South Africa selectors, who handed him his debut during the Boks 37-14 Test win against France at Loftus Versfeld earlier this year.

To cap of a fine afternoon, Ross scored a brilliant try on debut against the French and is now a regular in Allister Coetzee’s starting XV.

“It’s really amazing,” Guy says of his brother’s exploits in the green and gold jersey.

“I now get to watch my boet playing some awesome rugby; he is playing out of his boots. I feel I am part of the journey. The fact that I am no longer playing, I feel he is playing for all of us.

“That’s why my sister came up with the saying that ‘you are now playing for two’. He took it to heart and since I was diagnosed with cancer, he has been playing wonderful rugby.

“It would have been fantastic to play alongside him for Zim but looking at the way his career went, it’s fantastic that he went on to play for the Springboks.”

Watching his brother blossom for the Boks, does Guy have any regrets for choosing to play for the Sables?

“No, jeepers! I loved my time with the Sables,” he responds. “It was an amazing experience and I enjoyed the people I got to meet and the fact that we were also so close to qualify for the World Cup is something I won’t ever forget. I only had three caps but I would not trade them for anything.”

Watching from a distance the strife that often rocks rugby in Zimbabwe, Guy feels with better welfare for players and luring back foreign-based stars, the Sables can easily be one of the top two teams in Africa.

Away from rugby, Guy recently tied the knot with his girlfriend Jo who he had been dating for five years.

They got married on the Cronje farm above the grapevines in the Cradle of Human Kind where the twins and their sister Robyn have started a wedding Venue called Ground.

Guy is currently living and working in Durban in commercial and industrial property broking and investments for a company called Lambie Spark & Associates.

While Zimbabwe may never get to see how great a player Guy could have become, he has not lost hope on seeing the Sables rise to compete with some of the best teams in the world.

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