Former Springbok World Cup winner JP Pietersen quietly slipped into retirement earlier this month. It was a typically low-key exit from a man who had a massive influence on teams he represented while never seeking the limelight.
During some deep analysis on how to improve his already improving Springbok team after two successful years in 2004 and 2005, coach Jake White identified a weak area.
"Imagine I had a wing the size and speed of (New Zealand's) Joe Rokocoko," White mused. "That would improve the team immediately." Rokocoko was 1.88m tall, weighed 101kg and was blisteringly quick.
JP Pietersen runs with the ball during the IRB World Cup match between South Africa and Samoa at Parc des Princes, 9 September 2007 in Paris. (Photo: Tertius Pickard / Gallo Images / Getty Images)
It's not clear whether White had heard of young Jon-Paul Roger Pietersen from the Sharks at that stage in early 2006. But if he hadn't, he was about to learn who he was.
The Sharks held trials in 2006, and a 19-year-old Pietersen was invited along. He tore it up and, faster than he changed his name from Jon-Paul...