John Studstill is a very special Lions supporter.
Not only is he American, but he moved all the way to Johannesburg, South Africa to be close to his favorite team, the Lions.
Studstill (45) is retired from the United States Coast Guard.
He stumbled upon a rugby game on TV in 2003 and immediately fell in love with this sport that he did not know existed.
“I was in Huntington West Virginia which is where Marshall University is. I watched it on TV and I said to my wife I am going to do that, and she said: Yeah right!
“So I called the university, talked to the coach, and he said I could join them. It was great, it was absolutely fantastic. The Coach Guard had just initiated mandatory fitness. I was very fit and they had to do special clearances on me because I got so big. I trained really hard and absolutely loved it,” he explains in that familiar American drawl, something not always heard at Emirates Airline Park.
The question begs why a man of 45 is retired. But Studstill is one happy guy living in South Africa close to his favorite rugby team.
He says he had a lot of trauma as part of the Coast Guard is really glad that he doesn’t have to do anything anymore. “I got tired of working to pay bills and I sold everything and came here. I’m not rich but I get paid by the US government every month. I receive pensions. They do that when you almost died for them. They don’t give you a hard time.”
He first came to South Africa in 2009 because the family had property in Namibia. “I was always a huge fan of coach Johan Ackermann, from the time he was a player, and he was the reason I kept playing. I was playing with college kids and I played from positions four to eight, depending on who showed up that day.
“I always liked the Lions style of play. When they were relegated out I felt bad for them. And then they came with Ackermann. He was a great player, he is an inventive coach. I wish he was the national coach.”
He only managed to watch his first game at the stadium this year because he always went back in the South African winter and by the time he came back at the end of the year, all the games had been finalized.
“I live a life of leisure I guess. Since I’ve been here I’ve been at every home game. And every home game I’ve been to, they’ve won. And every game we go to, my girlfriend wears a shirt from the other team. And then we win. But when we went to Bloemfontein on the bus, she didn’t want to wear the Cheetah shirt. And they lost,” he explains as a matter of fact.
His favorite Lions players are Jaco Kriel or Franco Mostert because he says they always do the full 80 minutes. “They are willing to put their bodies on the line for the cause, they are fundamentalists,” he laughs.
He acknowledges that rugby is a growing sport in America, but pleads that they should stop showing commercials during games. “If they can just get past putting commercials in a rugby game. And to watch rugby in America you have to subscribe to certain channels.
“I first watched rugby through the Kudu club which was South African, but then it got blocked in 2007. I then had to pirate it through an Irish company via a Canadian satellite company. And they finally blocked that and for 2.5 years there was absolutely nothing.”
He jokes about having two ex-wives. “I am a retired sailor, I had 2 wives.”
He is very happy in South Africa and state unequivocally that he will not return to America anytime soon. “I like South Africa. I won’t go back to Texas. It’s too hot, the weather is miserable, I can’t watch rugby and I will have to work. This is much better for me, I enjoy it here.”
They say a seafarer needs to be a good team player. Think Studstill has that down to a tee. After all, he did move 8,277 miles across the ocean to his support his favorite team.