A quick-footed flyhalf who could also play inside centre; a man with a reliable kicking foot.
And although he wasn’t as big as the centers we see running out on the field today, Hennie le Roux didn’t hold back a single penny to hunt down an opponent on the rugby field.
Today, Le Roux spends most of his time in the hunting field, rather than on the rugby field, where he helps hone others to realize their full personal potential as hunters.
Le Roux himself is passionate about hunting and is especially an enthusiastic bow hunter.
“The only thing that compares to bowhunting is jogging on the field for a game against the All Blacks,” says Le Roux jokingly.
Le Roux sits on the porch of his four-star guest farm about 20 km from Grahamstown (Makhanda) in the Eastern Cape. The farm teems with fauna and flora. The silence is almost palpable, with only the birdsong in the background.
“Do you hear the silence?” asked Le Roux, as he squinted at the scenery around him. “There is no more beautiful sound than that.”
Although Le Roux likes silence, he is anything but silent.
After he retired as a Springbok in 1996, he was still involved in rugby for about ten years, as a founding member of the SA Rugby Players’ Union. Currently, he has numerous successful business interests that he tries to balance. This includes the Crown River Safari Game Farm. He is also director of Apec Auctions (Africa south of the Sahara) and Pulse Consulting.
At the age of 56, Le Roux is not thinking about retirement at all.
“There is still too much to do and achieve. But if I do, it will be on my game farm.”
The good old rugby days
In his calm tone of voice, Le Roux tells about the good old days on the rugby field. When he talks about the historic Rugby World Cup final of 1995, a smile forms on his lips.
“You can’t help but get emotional when you think back to that day. The game went so fast, but it stays with you. I remember the almost 80,000 spectators at Ellis Park who shouted former president Nelson Mandela’s name when he walked onto the field. I remember the plane flying over the stadium and us singing the national anthem as one man.”
Because Le Roux was well versed in Afrikaans, English and Xhosa, he helped the players to pronounce the words of the English and Xhosa parts of the national anthem correctly. Former Springbok Garry Pagel helped him.
“I’m a bit of a bastard. My mother is English and I was in an English school. My father is African. When I spoke English to my father, he pretended not to hear me. On the farm we spoke Xhosa. I was privileged to grow up like that.”
Le Roux misses playing rugby, but is happy where he is now.
“I miss the team spirit, the players, the camaraderie and how we joked with each other. But there comes a stage in your life where you have to make changes and moves. I dedicated myself to rugby and only shifted my focus late in my life to starting a family.”
Le Roux married Anneke at the age of 40 and they have two children, Logan (11) and Cayden (9).
“My children still keep me young, although the old body is sore after all the rugby injuries.”
Cayden seems to like cricket more at this stage and is not yet following in his father’s rugby habits. “We will see how he develops. In any case, I will support him in whatever he wants to participate in.”
Le Roux was born and raised in Grahamstown and excelled on the rugby field barefoot from childhood.
He matriculated at Graeme College in Grahamstown and obtained his degree in sports management and human movement science at the then University of Port Elizabeth (UPE). He then started playing for the OP and Junior Springboks.
From there he was moved to Gauteng to play for the old Transvaal rugby team. He then also completed his honors at the then Rand Afrikaans University (RAU). In 1993 he made his debut as a Springbok (in a match against France).
He played a total of 27 matches as a Springbok on the field between 1993 and 1996.
Transition years in rugby
With the transition of rugby in 1995 from amateur to professional sport, Le Roux was actively involved in the change from amateur structures to efficient professional structures, which would remain sustainable and commercially driven.
This not only led to a revolution in the sport worldwide, but also ushered in a new professional era in rugby.
“In those years there was quite a bit of conflict between players and the administrators regarding players’ rights. That is why I founded the SA Rugby Players Union (Sarpa) in 1997.
“Because we fought for players’ rights at that time, today players are well helped and they are well looked after.”
There was also great pressure on the Springboks team in 1995 to prove themselves again on the international stage after years of seclusion.
From a political point of view, it was also a period of great transition, with many people nervous about the future of politics in the country.
“We had to use rugby to bring the country together and to align people’s ideologies. You will never get everyone to agree on politics. Instead, there are other elements you can use to bring people closer together. Rugby is an example of that.”
When Mandela met the Springboks for the first time, Le Roux was so impressed with the president that he gave him his Springbok cap. Mandela wore it regularly after that.
“When you spent time with him, he soon got under your skin. He made an effort to try to understand you as a person.”
Mandela was also part of the inspiration behind Le Roux’s non-profit organisation, UniteSA.
“UniteSA is focused on bringing people together. It is a social movement, without any political agenda, founded by South Africans with a shared concern about the current wave of negativity sweeping across our beloved country.”
One with nature
At the end of last year, the Le Roux family moved from Johannesburg to Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth), which is about an hour’s drive from the Crown River Safari guest farm. The family got tired of the city and decided to move closer to the farm and the sea
Le Roux had always dreamed of buying a game farm, which is why he bought the Crown River Lodge in 1996.
The farm borders the Thomas Baines nature reserve and is located in the main catchment area of Grahamstown, at the confluence of two rivers in the Settlers Dam – which is located on the farm.
Today it is a guest farm with four-star accommodation and is made available for hunting opportunities for local and foreign hunters. The farm also offers other activities such as fishing, hiking and archery.
Crown River Lodge is also a member of the Assegaai Conservation Area – a vast area of land operated under separate ownership to form a diverse and rich landscape, with the conservation of fauna and flora as the driving force behind the conservation area. Currently, the Assegaai conservation area consists of thickets and grasslands totaling 50,000 ha.
Le Roux has been hunting since he was about six years old and was introduced to bowhunting eleven years ago when he was in America. It was a fantastic experience for this ex-Goat and he is a big supporter of walk-and-stalker bowhunting.
“For me, it’s not so much about pulling the trigger, but rather the strategy you have to work out while hunting. To get as close as possible to the animal and pit your ability against the ability of the animal – that is the challenge. It gets adrenaline pumping through your veins.”
- Read more about Crown River Safari here.