From the Journal

Joe Pietersen: Rugby, rhinos + drones


Joe Pietersen, a household name in South African Rugby has been a part of the bone crunching Super Rugby fold for over a decade.

He’s one of the most experienced professional rugby players in the game today, a passionate rhino conservationist, a killer drone photographer,  a hell of a nice guy and oh, he’s Ker & Downey Africa’s newest ambassador.

That’s a lot of epic information to take in all at once, so let’s break it down a bit.

Joe came up through the U20 South African Currie Cup ranks in 2004, back when spear tackles and stiff arms were a little less… regulated. He made some noise in the South African 7’s team before debuting in the Super Rugby tournament for Western Cape’s Stormers in 2005. Fast forward 11 years – numerous South African caps, a British & Irish Lions tour, 2 seasons in France, 1 in Japan and multiple Super Rugby seasons – and Joe Pietersen is sitting in front of us in a coffee shop on a busy day in Cape Town’s buzzing city centre.

Joe Pietersen rugby

It’s always polite not to talk too much rugby when you meet a rugby player, their lives are filled with news stories, radio interviews, promo days and basically having to soak up the unavoidable guy that thinks he knows why our wings aren’t scoring tries or loose forwards aren’t rucking right. Luckily though, when chatting to Joe it’s pretty easy to stay off the topic of the coaching tips we may or may not have been willing to offer – because he’s all about Africa.

Joe pretty much spends any spare time he can get in the bush or the ocean and is wholeheartedly committed to the conservation of Africa’s wildlife – rhinos in particular. We tend to partner with ambassadors that display a knack for backing their words and ideals up with serious action, without pulling punches so to speak. Well, Joe Pietersen fits the bill. He’s been out with armed anti-poaching units protecting our rhinos, and regularly gets physically involved in the protection of the endangered species of Africa through helping set up conservation fencing, hand rearing baby rhinos and installing security precautions.

Joe Pietersen at waterhole

Between playing one of the world’s toughest sports, travelling the world and saving the world, Joe, naturally, finds some time to film the world – from the sky. He got into drone photography as a result of wanting to capture his African travel experiences. We’re back in that coffee shop in Cape Town and Joe grabs his phone and shows us some “clips he grabbed” while recently in Botswana and well, apparently rugby players make great drone photographers.

Joe Pietersen Drone

Favourite drink?


Best book you've recently read?

"What ever you do, don’t run by Peter Allison"

What do you do when you're not chasing a rugby ball?

"I spend all of my spare time in the bush, and then if I get the chance, I’ll go for a surf."

Destination you'd most like to visit?

"Tanzania is at the top of my list for all and every reason."

Current thing atop your bucket list?

"Climb Everest etc. – I would love to one day run a sub 4min mile."

Favourite safari destination?

"The Okavango Delta"

Favourite movie?

"Anything with Mark Wahlberg in."

What do you never travel without?

"My GoPro, my drone and a hat."

If you weren't a rugby player you would have...

"Been working full time in conservation and tourism."

We’ll keep you posted on Joe’s African adventures as we check in with him around the world.

Joey Cameron
Written by
Joseph Cameron

NYC based, South African transplant, Joey Cameron, is a freelance writer, travel-nerd, natural food enthusiast, personal trainer and brand owner. Characterised by an insatiable hunger for passport stamps and a somewhat strange (non)sense of humour, he can found regularly scanning the skies for ways to up, up and getaway.

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