“Hello, Mr Foote. Matt Damon has requested for you to join him, Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood at the Springboks - Italy game at Newlands tomorrow.”
It’s April 2009, two years have passed since Kevin Foote laced up his boots, one last time for the Ikey Tigers.
While Foote’s role may have changed, his connection to the game remained as intense as ever.
So, it came as no surprise that when Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon ventured to the sandy shores of Cape Town to begin filming ‘Invictus’ – a biographical sports drama based on John Carlin’s Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation – Kevin Foote would be involved.
“I get this phone call from the production crew saying they’re beginning filming on this movie based on the 1995 World Cup which South Africa won, when Nelson Mandela was freed, becoming our first black President and unifying an incredibly divided country,” said Foote.
“Matt Damon was playing the role of Francois Pienaar – a legendary Springbok. The problem was Matt Damon didn’t know how to play rugby, so they asked if I could be his body double in the movie.
“So, I went there for a trial and suddenly I’m literally teaching Matt Damon how to tackle, and he’s soaking it all in, and giving me absolutely everything.
“Anyway, I went two or three times before the agency informed that I was too big to portray him in the film, which is funny because this is the Jason Bourne - I was ready for him to kill me.”
Unfortunately, Foote’s acting career was short-lived, but the impact he made on his celebrity student proved to be lasting.
“Days later, I get this phone call back from the agency saying South Africa are playing Italy and Matt and the crew are keen to go watch the game with you - will you take them?”
“His whole entourage arrives in Newlands and security is holding everyone back.
“All my friends were just looking at me in confusion, as I’m hanging out with Clint Eastwood, Matt Damon, and Morgan Freeman.
“Clint was a bit busy and Morgan is a bit more introverted, but Matt Damon was unbelievable value, such a humble and genuine guy.”
The charm of Kevin Foote has no limits.
Whether it’s the hardened shell of the Australian rugby media landscape, or three legendary award-winning actors from Hollywood, Foote’s ability to connect is as profound as it is decisive.
It’s something the forty-two-year-old prides himself on every moment of every day.
“Humility is just a large part of who I am; positively impacting people’s lives and leaving them filled with love because that’s what we all want at the end of the day,” said Foote.
Hailing from Johannesburg, South Africa, Foote’s love affair with rugby began early while attending his father’s King Edward VII School.
Searching for his place in the daunting ecosystem of secondary school, Foote was instantly drawn to the intensity and mateship schoolboy rugby could provide.
“Before I found the game, I was a bit of a lost soul, but immediately I was drawn to the physicality aspect of it and obviously the friendships, and brotherhood that I made through that experience.”
Following a rich introduction to XV’s rugby, performing in front of thousands of adoring locals, Foote enrolled at Rand Afrikaans University before later transferring to Stellenbosch University in 1999 – a renowned academic institute known for its elite rugby prowess.
“That was such an exciting step for me, as a hungry, eager-to-learn young man, wanting to see where the game of rugby could take me.”
“Stellenbosch was a big rugby hub down in the Western Cape, where we had two teams playing in the first league and two more playing in the second league, which created great competition within the university.
“We had such a strong depth coming through, so you really had to play well with every opportunity you got.
“It was very old-school in the sense that our coach wouldn’t tell you if you had been dropped, you’d have to go look at a noticeboard to see if your name was there, or if you had been left off.”
Two years later the burly built prodigy would make his domestic competition debut, running out for the Natal Wildebeest in the Vodacom Cup.
Foote’s insatiable appetite for contact, his turbo speed and power and reliable ball in hand abilities, quickly captured the attention of local Super 12 club, the Sharks, as a professional XV’s career appeared seemingly within his grasp.
However, one phone call later, the twenty-two-year-old’s path dramatically changed.
“Howsit Kevin, this is Chester Williams.”
“I just said bullshit, this isn’t Chester.
“I thought it was one of my friend’s prank-calling me - I couldn’t believe it was actually him”
The late Chester Williams remains one of South Africa’s greatest sporting icons, and one whose impact extends far beyond the game of rugby.
The only non-white member of the famed Springboks side that claimed the 1995 Rugby World Cup on home soil, Williams’ triumph became a proud symbol of South Africa’s racial harmony following a decade of devastating apartheid.
‘The Black Pearl’ would craft an unforgettable playing career spanning over eight years with the national team, before embarking on a memorable coaching journey beginning with the South African Sevens team for three seasons (2001-2003) – two of which, coaching Kevin Foote.
“I still remember that phone call to this day; calling me to tell me that I had been invited down to try out for the South African Sevens squad.”
“Initially there were only 12 of us in the squad training, so I thought cool, this is the team – I’ve made it.
“But it turns out, there were already 25 guys contracted, and I was part of the final 12 fighting for those last two places.
“Fortunately, I made it to the final squad, and then I went on to captain the Springbok Sevens, which was obviously just a huge achievement in my lifetime.”
Over the next three years, Foote would star on the international stage, accumulating 43 caps over eight IRBW Sevens tournaments.
In 2005, following a brief three-month stint playing for the Sunshine Coast Stingrays in Queensland, Foote returned to Cape Town, captaining the UCT Ikey Tigers for three seasons before a major leg break forced the dynamic veteran into retirement.
As time marched on, Foote quickly turned his attention to coaching, where he served as Ikey’s assistant coach for two seasons, before leading his beloved Tigers to a breakthrough maiden Varsity Cup title in 2010.
“I’ve always been in and around coaching the game - even during my professional playing days where I’d go back to my old school and coach when I was in Cape Town.
“Being around the game and leading young men, young athletes, was just something that became very natural to me.”
In early 2013, Foote received another life altering call – one that would lead him and his young family back to the land down under.