South African Rugby
Watson regret over past controversies
ESPNscrum Staff
October 7, 2010
South Africa flanker Luke Watson, June 9 2007.
Watson won the last of his ten international caps in 2008 © Getty Images

Former Springboks flanker Luke Watson has apologised for the controversy that has plagued his career and indicated his desire to return to South Africa in the future.

The 26-year-old, who famously hit the headlines in 2008 after allegedly criticising the South African rugby establishment and declaring that the Springbok shirt made him want to vomit, is currently playing for Premiership side Bath following a move to England last year. He has now hinted at a return to his homeland however and attempted to draw a line under the more difficult aspects of his career in the latest issue of SA Rugby magazine.

The son of Daniel 'Cheeky' Watson, one of the first white rugby players to take a stand against apartheid in the 1970s, Watson was the subject of widespread criticism following his South African Rugby Union-enforced selection for the Springboks in 2007. Captain John Smit has since claimed in his autobiography that Watson had a 'cancerous' effect on the squad.

"I now understand why so many people in South Africa didn't like me. I was a political pawn, even if I had good intentions," he said. "If I could get the chance again, I would do a lot of things differently. I regret going to the camp [of former Bok coach Jake White in 2007] knowing that the coach did not want me there."

Watson missed out on selection for the 2007 Rugby World Cup but returned to Bok colours the following year, earning nine caps under new coach Peter De Villiers. Watson voluntarily withdrew from contention for international honours in the wake of the 2008 controversy and although an investigation into his comments was abandoned he has not played for the Boks since that year's Tri-Nations.

"I did things that were not always my own choice. In reality I was a political pawn," he said. "I had good intentions and wanted to promote a certain cause. But I also knew that I did not want to be there - just as little as Jake and the other players wanted me there. Looking back I was wrong. Was I the positive influence I was supposed to be? No. Was I constructive enough in my approach? No. I should not have been there."

Watson, who will lead Bath into their Heineken Cup encounter with Biarritz on Sunday, added that he hoped to return to South Africa in the future to make a "constructive contribution" and be a "good role model" for young rugby players.

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