New kids on the Bok block
Sports stars are a notoriously superstitious lot - and South African rugby's new wonderkid, Patrick Lambie, is no exception.
His family this week revealed the secret that has propelled him to superstardom and made him one of the youngest players to be selected for the Springboks - his lucky pair of white underpants.
The 20-year-old, who made his mark in the Super 14 as a fullback before finding his home at flyhalf during the Currie Cup, scored an astounding 25 points in the final which saw the Sharks lifting the trophy against Western Province last week.
That performance guaranteed a ticket for him and his "lucky jocks" on the Springboks' tour of Britain and Ireland, which kicked off yesterday. Lambie's parents, Caz and Ian, left on Thursday to give him support.
"I think he is (still) quite keen on the same underpants for his matches," said his mother. "He is a little bit superstitious."
The baby-faced Bok's underwear ritual dates from his young cricket-playing days.
"When he was a little boy he used to wear the same underpants for cricket festivals," she said. Even when he started to outgrow the underpants, he'd find a way to squeeze into them.
"Someone said his pants are small and I had to explain that he would not wear any others. I had to wash them every day," said Caz with a laugh.
"We all have the same kind of ritual, our little lucky things that we wear to his big matches, like my lucky earrings or handbag," she said.
Lambie's not alone. The New York Times recently revealed the rituals of other US sports stars which included basket ball legend Michael Jordan wearing the shorts from his university days under his Chicago Bulls uniform. Wimbledon champion Serena Williams refuses to change her socks at tournaments she's winning .
Lambie, who is studying towards a BA in environmental management through the University of SA , shares a close bond with his brother, Nicholas, who is 17 months older.
Caz said the family was "bursting with pride" about Lambie's Currie Cup performance. Rugby runs in the family: "Ian played a few games for Natal and my father was a rugby player for England and played about 50 games for Natal," Caz said.
Lambie followed in his father and grandfather's footsteps, making his Sharks debut last year and becoming Michaelhouse's first Springbok.
Lambie's girlfriend, Kate Symons, chuckled at the mention of his underwear routine.
"Ja, he does wear his favourite (for big matches)" she said.
Symons, a sports science student at the University of Pretoria, said she and her rugby star boyfriend had their own ritual before a major game: "We pray together before a big match, whether I'm with him or away."
- Elton Jantjies refuses to wash any of the rugby jerseys he has previously worn and has them all stacked in his cupboard.
His parents don't know the reason, but indulge his whims.
Showing the Sunday Times the smelly green-and-gold jersey the 20-year-old wore in the under-20 World Cup in Argentina earlier this year, his father, Thomas, said: "I must frame it as is. He just says we mustn't wash it."
Jantjies has always had a ball. In fact, for his first birthday, his parents had a rugby-ball cake made for him.
Last Saturday, the Golden Lions flyhalf took a giant step forward in his rugby career when he was named in the Springbok team to tour the UK and Ireland.
"That evening, the three of us were sitting in front of the TV. When they read his name out ... jistie. It was only tears," said Thomas, a chief warrant officer in the South African Military Health Service.
"As a parent, supporter and coach, I knew that one day it would happen - but maybe at 25. I didn't think it would happen so soon."
Jantjies's younger brother, Tony, 18, wasn't home when the announcement was made. He was in Durban playing for the Blue Bulls in the under-19 Currie Cup final against Western Province.
Jantjies was born in the Karoo town of Graaff-Reinet, but the family moved to Cape Town when his father, also a keen rugby player, was transferred to a military hospital there.
He showed an interest in sport at an early age, playing cricket and rugby. Both brothers played provincial cricket, but gave it up to focus on rugby.
In 2004, the family moved to Gauteng where Thomas coached both boys after hours.
Jantjies's talent was spotted by the director of sport at Hoërskool Florida, Skip Viljoen, who asked if he could join the school - but the family then moved back to Cape Town.
In 2006, when they returned to Gauteng, Thomas agreed that Jantjies could join the school on condition that his younger brother also attended the school.
Viljoen said this week that when he saw Jantjies play for the first time, he knew that he would be a Springbok one day.
"I could see him from a distance. He was something special. He was such a talented player, I immediately spoke to his dad," he said.
Meanwhile, a blonde who appears in Jantjies's Facebook profile picture claims that they have been dating for two years.
Jantjies and Lynique Schalkwijk were "good friends" in high school. She was a year ahead of him, but their friendship warmed after she saw him playing rugby with her two "little cousins".
The 21-year-old education student at the University of Johannesburg posted a comment on her Facebook page soon after the Springbok squad announcement last Saturday, saying, "My liefie is 'n Springbok" (my love is a Springbok). Karen Van Rooyen