One of the more analytical minds to come out of the South African rugby scene, Brendan Venter showcased what a keen mind can do to a primarily physical game.
The tactician was born in 1969 in Johannesburg and attended the University of the Free State where he studied to become a general practitioner - a man of many talents indeed.
During his early days he played rugby for South African schools, using it as leverage to get his degree. He insists his studies and becoming a doctor was always his priority, but the vast majority of the last few years show him being perpetually involved in rugby, first as a player then as a coach. It’s clear enough to say Brendan Venter’s passion for the game will always see him come back to it.
His professional rugby career started at the Free State, or the Cheetahs, in 1990. He stayed there for nine years before heading to the Stormers at the turn of the millennium.
Brendan Venter accumulated 122 appearances during the nine years he stayed there, making it to the finals of the Currie Cup on a couple of occasions but never clinching the win, unfortunately.
The astute thinker did, however, clinch the most notable trophy of all in the Rugby World Cup. The centre was part of the 1995 Springbok side that allowed for that fairytale ending to years of South African isolation during Apartheid.
Brendan Venter also featured in the 1999 Rugby World Cup but was sent off against Uruguay, causing him to lose his spot for the tournament. The coach made 17 appearances for the Springboks from 1994 - 1999. During that time he continued to practice as a general practitioner, a testament to how versatile he really is.
In 1998 he moved to play for the London Irish and stayed there for five years in a player/coach capacity.
After his days on the pitch were over, he assumed the role of coach, playing instead from the side of the pitch. In 2009 he became Director of Rugby at Saracens and helped build a system inside the club built on relationships and memories, instead of simply results.
His philosophy as a coach helped players understand the value of connections, and not simply the game played inside four corners. Brendan Venter remains an impactful South African coach, and continues to grow forward with time.