Cape Town – On Sunday the rugby legend Thando Manana, nicknamed "the gentle giant", became the 4th celebrity contestant to be voted out of Dancing with the Stars SA on M-Net (DStv 101).
Channel24 spoke to Thando, who shares his thoughts about the “horrendous training regime”, how he lost 14kg just by dancing, and the samba that did him in.
Is there anything that you think you could have done differently?
Well, things are always out of my hands. I was given a task to perform each week – a certain dance for the upcoming Sunday's show, and I was doing that exactly as per the order that was there for all of us dancers. I mean, I went up to the halfway mark so I'm so proud of myself as an individual, but also so, so proud of my body for going through that horrendous training regime of getting to know each and every step of every dance I had to do.
But most importantly having fun and also losing weight. I was busy crafting a craft that I had never been subjected to all my life, so I bow out and I leave with fond memories of what my body actually did for me as a person. Mentally it's not enough, but I'm also acknowledging the muscle memory that my body had to endure.
What has the experience been like for you?
Look, I always say first and foremost you make friends, and I did that exceptionally well with each and every person – be it white, coloured, black who were there. We became friends, shared a lot of jokes – but also hope.
You know, some of your close mates you could feel they would be struggling in a different episode but everyone kept on motivating each other. So a lot of emotions but also behind-the-scenes, you got to know more of an individual of where they come from, what they do and the trade they're in, so for me I'll be forever grateful for making those friends, so that whenever we meet again down the line, we are able to talk not only dancing, but talk in terms of how one's life has expanded after we last met on the dance floor.
What did you think of the judges?
I think those four judges are the best judges for this show and I wish them well.
For me it was not about them, it was always about the audience and the people who would come in and vote for us and for what they saw as opposed to what the judges saw. Look, the judges, they had their say about me throughout and I think those were the people who motivated me to push myself beyond my limits rather than to focus on what they've been saying about what I do and how I do it.
What was the hardest for you?
Well, the hardest was always on a Monday. That was the hardest. Getting to know what I'm about to do but also not knowing how soon I'll be able to grasp into that dance routine.
I mean, I did a samba, I was told we're the first to do a samba. But I mean it was Monday and you know, one would think you'd have a lot of resets because it's such a tricky dance that you have to do. So for me, I never gave up hope that when it came to Sunday I would perform my routine to the best of my ability, which I did, but I was again proven that yes, the footwork was there, but the body wasn't there. For me, that's why I think I was in the competition – to catch myself, and unfortunately this time around the buck had to stop and unfortunately the samba outdid me there.
I think people struggle for a year to perform that dance and I at least pushed for a week. I was sick on Thursday, Friday, Saturday with flu but despite that I was continually trying, even if it was an hour or so, because I wanted to see if I could defeat this dance that was given the magnitude of being the most difficult dance that is done on the dance floor even by professional dancers. They take so long to get into it.
What did you not expect about this journey?
Well, firstly to be beyond the halfway mark. To be in episode 6. I think after the first episode, you would have seen yourself, when I did the waltz I was at the bottom of the leaderboard. And someone said "there's always a second half" and I've proved to each and every person who maybe doubted me and thought that I'd be one of the first people to leave the show, that I had a couple of weeks in me to go forward.
Even now I fought a good fight, and I'm quite proud of that. One learns to never underestimate the potential that you as a human being has. And most importantly for me, is to just keep on having fun and enjoying. If people just have that, I think you see beyond the horizon. You see that you actually stretch a little bit more. And we're going to start to see that – the mental toughness of the guys that remain in the competition. It's not going to get any easier. But for me overall, quite ecstatic that I made it up to episode 6, the halfway mark.
And who would have thought a guy who would go on to lose 14kg would continue to perform and outdo himself. I've never danced in my life, never have I done this this thing. But at the end, I am happy that I did it.
How do you feel about being voted out?
Oh well, with the dance that I had, and the potential dance-off that was there, if you look at the dancing of the other couples – yes they were not easy – but also being the first to have done that dance, I mean I came up against my good friend, Delron Buckley, who was doing the jive and did exceptionally well with the Charlton.
The jive was always a dance that if you do it so well, it will get you through to the finish line. And unfortunately I had to come up against a jive and against Delron and I gave it my all once again.
How did the show change your body physically?
Physically, mentally. It all starts mentally because you have to prepare. Look, remember I also have an Archilles' injury that I still carry to this day, so the body has felt a lot of pain but the body has also made a transition in terms of where I was when I first arrived in Johannesburg on the 14th of January to now.
My mom just said I'm looking in great shape I must keep it up, so I've got another task that I've got to do. I need to impress her as well by just making sure that I hold on to the body that has developed from this dancing.
But I have huge, huge respect for dancing. I think each and every person that takes this recreation dance going forward is on the right track health wise but also I think body wise as well. But I take the mental toughness that goes with it but just for me the change in what you eat and how you preserve your body and how you look after your body.
So those are all the aspects that go with dancing and also at the end just to appreciate the skill set that goes with the dancing.
What did you learn about yourself?
Well, I learned every day about myself. I learned every day and ticked new boxes namely to remain calm when it matters most, and most importantly being able to execute things that I never thought I could do.
For example, the most difficult steps would be the easiest steps. So my body and my mind is just unbelievable. I'm learning new things, that you should never say never, and never have that attitude of saying it can't be done. It can be done – with more precision, with more patience, but also with more calmness. Just a sense of breathing in and out, you become a better dancer in terms of posture.
So I've learnt that you just need to be more relaxed in life – whatever you do, whether you're thinking or you're writing or doing exercise, just always have control of yourself, of your mind and of your body, and that's what I've learnt from the dancing experience.
Most importantly it's just a sense of you've got to enjoy it. If I didn't enjoy it I would have been long time gone.
(Photo: Cathy Pinnock)