IT was Danny Wilson who persuaded Sintu Manjezi to join Glasgow Warriors, so it must have been more than a tad disconcerting for the South African back-five forward to learn less than two weeks after his deal was announced at the end of May that the coach had been relieved of his position at the club.
Fortunately for the 6ft 6ins 27-year-old, the man who was brought in to take up the reins at Scotstoun two months later was not a complete stranger, with Manjezi having played under Franco Smith for the Cheetahs franchise in their native South Africa during the 2018-19 season.
“He’s a very hard coach, a very determined coach,” said Manjezi, who appears to be settling in well in his new surroundings having made the switch to Glasgow from Pretoria earlier this summer. “He brings the best out of players as he’s right on the detail and expects you to be on your detail too.
“The sessions [at Glasgow since Smith’s arrival at the start of August] have been tough, and we’ve been a bit flustered – but when the boys come together, and we get the detail right, I think his structures can come out.
“It’s good to have worked with a coach before and to have that relationship. He knows my abilities and things like that from the Cheetahs. But I also know how hard he can be on me! So, it’s a win-win kind of situation.”
Pre-season has been extra demanding for Manjezi who has managed just three games and 94 minutes of competitive rugby (for the Bulls in the URC and the Blue Bulls in the Currie Cup) since suffering a cruciate ligament injury in January 2021. However, he says that build-up to the new campaign has gone well and he was raring to go against Ayrshire Bulls in Inverness on Friday night.
“Coming off a significant injury, it’s been good to get a pre-season under my belt. That sets the foundation for how the season will go so I’ve been training hard and hopefully I can bring that energy into the season. For me, it’s about giving my all to the team wherever they need me to be,” said Manjezi, who was going to play in the back-row on Friday but is equally comfortable in the engine-room.
Smith is not the only familiar face at Scotstoun, with new club captain Kyle Steyn an old pal from home who he is now lodging with until he finds a base of his own.
“It won’t be forever as he’ll want his space,” promised Manjezi. “I’ve been looking around and hopefully I can get something sorted soon. Me and Kyle played together at the Griquas in Kimberley so that’s when we met up.
“Kyle just got married. Well, he got married during Covid and they had to cancel the wedding so they had it recently. I did say it was maybe weird for me to be moving in with him at this time, but he did promise me the honeymoon period was over! I’ve got nothing to worry about he said. Although I’ve got a good pair of ear-pods to sort myself out just in case!
Asked how he is coping with life in Glasgow, he replied: “I won’t lie, the accent does get you a bit. Everyone seems to speak really quickly and underneath their breath. Otherwise, the boys have been really welcoming and have helped me out with what I need. It’s not been a culture shock. I’ve fitted in and all the foundations we have here are what I live by, so it’s about enjoying the experience.
“I’ve been here before in the URC so I know how European and UK rugby is,” he added. “It was an opportunity for me to experience something new, something out of my comfort zone. I’ve always wanted to travel the world and play rugby. So, this was a great opportunity to mix learning something new in a new culture and playing in the UK.
“Before I went to my previous team there had been some talks about me coming here but at the time I felt going to the Bulls would be better for me. But then Danny spoke to me again and I just felt that at this age I had done everything I needed in South Africa, and it was time for me to experience something new.”
Manjezi also played cricket at representative level in his youth before opting to concentrate on rugby during his final year of high school.
“My brother and father always said to play them as hard as you can and then make a decision, so in my last term I had a cricket offer and a rugby offer and that’s when I sat down with the people that support me,” he explained. “My cricket offer was from the Warriors, the team based in Port Elizabeth representing the Eastern Cape, but I decided to go the rugby route.
“I’m a pace bowler and a tail-end batter,” he added. “I’ve not had any offers to play here yet and I don’t know if you can get much cricket in with the Scottish weather! It has been good since I got here – maybe the South Africans here brought our weather with us – although I’m sure in the depths of winter I’ll be missing the sunshine at home!”