Rugby Union

David Pocock meets 'incredible human' Desmond Tutu in South Africa

David Pocock has led the fight against homophobia in sport, overcome two knee reconstructions and faces a World Cup selection battle, but meeting one of his heroes in South Africa made him weak at the knees.

Pocock returned to Canberra this week riding on a high after a one-on-one catch up with South African social rights activist, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

ACT Brumbies and Wallabies flanker David Pocock meets South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
ACT Brumbies and Wallabies flanker David Pocock meets South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Photo: supplied

The meeting at Tutu's Cape Town office was a world away from his duel with incumbent Wallabies captain Michael Hooper and the ACT Brumbies' bid to make the Super Rugby finals.

But the intimate meeting gave Pocock a unique insight into Tutu's history, views on leadership and the global community.

Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela in Cape Town in 1994.
Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela in Cape Town in 1994. 

Tutu, 83, is a Nobel Peace Prize winner for his contribution to opposing apartheid and was a close friend of former South Africa president Nelson Mandela.

"Desmond Tutu has been one of my heroes for a long time," Pocock said.

"I've probably read every book he was written and I think his example of seeking restorative rather than retributive justice after the end of apartheid is an example for everyone dealing with conflict.

"[He is] such an incredible human - his humility and sense of humour immediately put everyone at ease.

ACT Brumbies and Wallabies flanker David Pocock meets South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
ACT Brumbies and Wallabies flanker David Pocock meets South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Photo: supplied

"We laughed a lot and talked about the situation in Zimbabwe and the community development  work I am involved in."

Pocock got permission from the Brumbies to stay behind in South Africa after their two-game tour of the Rainbow Nation.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama meet the media in Cape Town in 1996.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama meet the media in Cape Town in 1996. 

Tutu invited Pocock to visit his Cape Town headquarters of the Tutu Legacy Foundation, which was started to create "a more compassionate world".

The pair joked about the Brumbies' fortunes in South Africa, with Tutu quizzing Pocock on why they beat the Johannesburg Lions and the former Wallabies skipper retorting with: "we lost to the [Cape Town] Stormers so we're even."

Tutu was the first black person to be appointed the Anglican Dean of Johannesburg in 1975 and twice had his passport revoked for his stance against apartheid.

But he was given the honour of introducing Mandela as South Africa's first black president in 1993, and Mandela appointed Tutu as the head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate and report the atrocities committed in the struggle over apartheid.

"[Tutu] has continued to be outspoken about the plight of the poor in Africa, homophobia and marriage equality and the need for action on climate change," Pocock said.

"A group from a California university arrived and we spent the next half an hour with them and the Arch talked about his views on leadership, ubuntu [humanity for others] and the global community."

Pocock will resume his Super Rugby season when the Brumbies play the Pretoria Bulls on Friday night as he continues his bid to win back the Wallabies' No. 7 jersey with fresh inspiration from meeting Tutu.

He is competing with Hooper for Test selection and hopes to play in the Super Rugby finals for the first time.

Hooper insisted on Friday that there was room for both he and Pocock in the same team, adding the competition for a Wallabies jersey would make them better players. 

But Pocock says his two years on the sideline with knee injuries taught him about balance between sport and his passion away from rugby.

Pocock took a stand against homophobia in sport this year when he made an on-field complain about NSW Waratahs forward Jacques Potgieter using slurs.

He copped public backlash, but said he was prepared to accept criticism if it meant standing for his beliefs.

Tutu said two years ago when campaigning for gay rights that he would never worship a "homophobic God" and would refuse to go to a "homophobic heaven".

Pocock has also been a part of a coal-mine protest and passionately heads up the EightyTwenty Vision not-for-profit organisation that assists communities in Zimbabwe to become self sufficient.

EightyTwenty vision board member Ilenna Vopley organised for Tutu was part of a video four years ago and Pocock has been eager to meet him.

"Since then we've been trying to organise a meeting of some sort while I'm in Cape Town - but it's never worked with dates - he's a very busy man," Pocock said.

"So now that he has retired from public life he had an opening on Tuesday and being the bye week the Brumbies allowed me to stay in South Africa for a couple of extra days. It was an amazing experience."