The former flanker and captain of South Africa’s 1995 World Cup winning side, and current coach of leading English club side, Saracens, looks back on an eventful career in rugby union and offers his views on the future of the game.
The image of Francois Pienaar shaking hands with Nelson Mandela as the South African captain was presented with the Webb Ellis trophy on that magical afternoon at Ellis Park, Johannesburg in 1995 will never be forgotten. A quite remarkable athlete and ambassador for multi-racial sport was being honoured in front of an estimated global audience of some 15 million.
In his autobiography, Francois Pienaar demonstrates how throughout his career he has led by example, both on and off the pitch – but especially off it. He not only said the right things at the right times, he convinced us that he meant every word of it. He even organised for the cash-strapped Romanians to be given a brand new set of Adidas kit before they flew home from the World Cup.
Not long after this, however, he found himself incurring the wrath of the Transvaal RFU as he led a walkout of leading rugby players demanding better pay terms. In his book he describes in detail that defining period in the history of the game, and how he was ostracised by the South African board as the global game was threatened with being torn apart.
A glowing international career at an end, Pienaar explains the motives behind his move to London-based Saracens as player-coach on a two-year contract. His arrival sparked a remarkable change of fortunes for the second division outfit, leading to promotion the next year followed by second place in the Premiership.
How did Pienaar influence political and cultural change in South Africa? What are his views on the change from amateurism to professionalism in the sport, both in this country and overseas? Where does he see rugby heading in the new millennium? These and other powerful themes are addressed by Francois Pienaar in his hard-hitting and thought-provoking book.
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Colourful, informative and easily accessible to even the most novice of players, Michael Owen's Soccer Skills (subtitled How to Become the Complete Footballer) may not have you basking in the glory of international acclaim by the time you're 18, but it will certainly help you improve your game.
Colour photographs, illustrations and step-by-step pointers on all the basic skills give you the grounding to get out on the pitch and get going.
From kicking, passing, shooting, dribbling and volleying to more surprising inclusions such as a chapter on defending (Michael admits this is the biggest lesson he had to learn--defending from the front), this is the complete manual for the players and coaches of young teams.
Action-packed photographs of Michael in action for both his club and his country, and sections on his extraordinary career so far, ensure this is aimed fairly and squarely at the young Owen follower. However, there is plenty in there for anyone merely wishing to improve their game and the discerning can skip the idol worship for good, hard facts on how to do exactly that. --Lucie NaylorReview:
‘Michael Owen excites me more than any other English player… he has the potential to become a true great’
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