‘No grudges, just thankful’: Russell




After bursting onto the international scene in 2002, when he carved up defences single-handedly in the Tri-Nations, Brent Russell has seen little top-flight action.

His versatility in the backline meant he never settled down in a starting position for either the Springboks or his longtime franchise the Sharks, and it seemed like performances like the matchwinning efforts against Australia at Ellis Park in 2002 and 2003 were not to be seen again.

And as latest national coach Jake White has never been one to utilise so-called impact players off the bench, Russell’s career was seemingly grinding down to a halt.

And that was the context of his decision to play his rugby in Cape Town, for Western Province and for the Stormers.

And this week, finding himself in some renewed try-scoring form, Russell gets to face his old team the Sharks at Newlands with the Stormers.

But Russell told us he is not playing with anything to prove.

“It is a nice occasion to be playing against your old union, but I won’t be trying to prove a point. I am just going to go out there and enjoy it.

“That’s one of the reasons I moved, I just want to be enjoying my rugby.

“If you are trying to prove a point, you are not playing for yourself anymore.

“I don’t hold grudges, I don’t have to prove anything.”

As for the international wilderness he has found himself in, Russell dismisses any notion of feeling “hard done by”.

“I am thankful for what I have received. I have played 23 Tests, and I’m still young enough to play some more. Hopefully I’ll be in a position where I am performing well enough to play again.”

Russell has always said that playing on the wing is not his favoured position, but, at the moment, with the opportunities he his having out wide, Russell says he is enjoying himself in the number 11 jersey.

“I’ve always said i dont enjoy wing, but I’m scoring tries and getting some ball; I’m really enjoying it.

“When I arrived in Cape Town, they did ask me what position I wanted to play, and I immediately said fullback or fly-half. But Peter Grant has been outstanding in his position and thoroughly deserves his position.

“Not that I’m hunting down his jersey, I just want to play and enjoy my rugby.

“Something that has been discussed is a licence I have to roam into different channels. But obviously I also want to be on the wing to receive the wider ball.”

All indicators point to a Brent Russell on the cusp of the prime of his career. He is enjoying being in Cape Town, and what’s more has a business venture on the go to boot.

“I spent 2000 and 2001 in Cape Town so I am familiar with the surroundings, and we have a great bunch of guys here so it has been great.

“We could have got off to a better start, and who knows we could have found ourselves in a semi-final.

“I have had a bit of a hamstring strain this season, and that has affected me in my consistency, but I am at a 100 percent now.”

As for business, Russell is about to launch a brand aptly named ‘Pocket Rocket’.

“I have registered the brand and I want people to know of its existence, but I am still waiting to get all my ducks in a row before I launch.

“We are going to be focussing on primary school kids, and will launch some products and services that promote a healthy and active lifestyle for kids and their parents – watch this space.”

By Chris Waldburger 365 Digital

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