Exclusive: Chris Cloete's Retirement Secrets and His Bold Claims on South African Rugby's Dominance

The Rugby professional recounts his rich career after retiring at Bath Rugby. The now-retired player comments on his time spent in South Africa and reflects on the sport by comparing regions.

Nathan Gogela
Nathan Gogela

Last Updated: 2024-06-03

Naim Rosinski

4 minutes read

Rugby professional Chris Cloete

Recently retired professional rugby player Chris Cloete takes us through his journey within South African Rugby before departing for Europe and eventually retiring at Bath Rugby. His schoolboy rivalry with the great Siya Kolisi and his opinion on possible reasons why players decide to leave South Africa and play abroad.

His Story in South Africa, Dealing with Injuries and No Contracts

“After school I was signed with the Sharks for 2 years, I broke my leg and had couple of injuries. Not really favoured by the coaches there, so they didn’t they re-contract me,” Cloete told

“I moved over to Western Province under John Dobson for the Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup, playing for match fees at the time. I got Glandular fever, so I couldn’t play for the rest of the season. At this point I was at no man’s land, so I stopped playing rugby for a bit.”

“I then moved back to the Eastern Cape, played for the Southern Kings, played in the Super Rugby against the best players in New Zealand and Australia. I played a bit in Kandy, Sri Lanka. Kandy, probably one of the best time of my career to be honest. The people, the culture and getting paid thousands, this ignited my passion for the game.”

Rivalry with South Africa Captain Siya Kolisi

“I went to Selbourne and Siya (Kolisi) was at Grey and Selbourne played Grey in the final game of the season. There was always a big rivalry, but I respect Siya always have, a great person, a great leader since school days.”

“I don’t really compare myself to him, I don’t really look at what people say on social media. But I have to say schoolboy rugby in South Africa is probably one of the biggest in the world, I think New Zealand is also very close to South Africa.”

South African Player’s Exodus

“Anyone who doesn’t sign a decent contract mid-20s, or no unions showing interest locally you do start looking abroad. If you look at Japan, they play 13-15 league games and get 3 months off, as an international player playing 13 games in Japan you are a lot fresher than other players who play over 26 games in the URC or the Premiership.”

“The money is definitely good, you are fresh and you off for 3 months there.  I mean for myself I went to Munster on a small contract, to get a foot in the door. Rassie (Erasmus) signed me before Johann van Graan took over, loved my time there at one of the most prestigious clubs in Europe.

South African Rugby vs. European Rugby

Credit: Patrick Khachfe/Getty Images

Credit: Patrick Khachfe/Getty Images

The upcoming month will be the international window and the much-anticipated clash between back-to-back Rugby World Cup Champions South Africa will face Ireland in a two-game series.

“It has to be South Africa, no debate about that. They won the won the previous World Cup, yes, we might have lost that opening game of the World Cup but that’s just the bounce of the ball, we know how to win when it counts and the depth now in South Africa is crazy!”

Cloete continued offering his thoughts on who is the best rugby nation and comparison between South African Rugby and European Rugby.

“Every team or club wherever you play have different environments, the English, French or South Africa different in their own right. South African rugby is faster, conditions are drier, and the guys are a bit more mobile and here at the Prem (Premiership), you will have bigger collisions, rugby is slower as the conditions are more damp and wet.

Decision on Retirement

 “The road to where I got that got me to where I am now, I think I got a lucky break really. I wasn’t re-signed at Bath and didn’t want to chase the dream in France and play in a lower league where things aren’t professional and want to end my career on a high.”

“My body has taken a lot of strain and my family always planned to move back to South Africa. I had a great innings, I am 33 now, I have always given my all since the age of 17 and very proud of what I have achieved. I feel it was a right time to retire, being at two great clubs in Europe.”

Nathan Gogela
Nathan Gogela Sports Writer

Nathan has over a decade of knowledge and experience, both as a former professional sportsperson and journalist. Nathan, a former radio sports presenter and producer is an award-winning community radio sports producer/presenter.