Reaching 100 Super Rugby caps is an incredibly challenging achievement; only 57 Australian players have achieved it, if you count Tevita Kuridrani who will reach the mark in tonight’s match against the Lions.
But to reach 150? That’s a staggering number, considering Super Rugby seasons have only ever had 18 matches before finals, sometime less (there have been numerous competition format changes).
So, to see Brumbies prop Ben Alexander reaching that mark in tonight’s same match against the Lions is put simply phenomenal; Alexander is only the fifth Australian to reach the mark, behind Stephen Moore, George Smith, Nathan Sharpe and Tatafu Polota-Nau.
Alexander made his Brumbies debut back in 2008, scoring a try against the Reds in Canberra in his first Super Rugby match, earning Wallaby selection that same year despite making just six appearances. In the nine completed seasons since, ‘Benny A’ has never played less than thirteen matches.
Scott Fardy played alongside Alexander for six seasons in Canberra, amassing 97 Super Rugby caps of his own before moving to Ireland where he won the European Champions Cup with Leinster last weekend.
A close friend and business partner of Alexander’s, including in their Kingston Foreshore restaurant/bar The Dock, Fardy said it was Alexander’s preparation and durability that have helped him reach the mark.
“I actually first met Ben a long time ago at Knox College, in 2007,” Fardy told RUPA from Dublin. “We were both doing some coaching there when I was in the Waratahs academy and that’s when I first ran into him; he was terribly dressed, as he remains today. We got along really well, and then we re-united when I joined at the Brumbies at the end of 2011 and have been mates ever since.
“I’m not surprised at all that he has reached 150 caps. He’s incredibly durable player, and if you think back to when we only had one prop on the bench (World Rugby changed a matchday squad from 22 to 23 in recent years) he was always the guy that was playing the full 80 minutes, so that makes it an even more incredible achievement to play this many games.”
Alexander’s one percenters have seen him keep in great shape physically, while he is a also a real leader among a Brumbies team that also features the likes of Sam Carter, Christian Leali’ifano, David Pocock and Henry Speight according to Fardy.
“He’s obsessed with his diet apps and he’s all over those and logs in everything he eats, which is quite frustrating when you want to sit down and have a nice meal with him.
“He’s also a great preparer, he always comes back to pre-season in great shape, and that was even when he was coming back after Wallaby tours – he’s always ready to go, he’s a naturally fit guy and he does an excellent job looking after himself.
“He has a lot of influence on the group, he’s very honest with himself and his teammates and he’s played a lot of footy with some of those same guys at the Brumbies so there’s a high level of respect for what they’ve achieved together. Anybody in any squad with his sort of experience is invaluable, and he has such a passion for the Brumbies and how much he loves Canberra; it will be his home for the rest of his life, he loves it down there and loves the people.”
As well as having packed down in plenty of scrums together over the years, Fardy and Alexander took the ultimate test of any friendship when they elected to go into business together.
Both men are as hands on as they can be in their respective business interests, and Fardy believes that commitment has helped Ben forge the right work/life balance.
“I think he is incredibly passionate about everything he is involved in, from Rugby to business.
“When you have somebody who is that eager to make things work, it makes it a thoroughly enjoyable experience to work with him, and while first and foremost he’s a mate of mine he’s also an excellent business partner. It’s been a great learning experience for both of us, but I think for both of us it’s been enjoyable and beneficial for our footy. I think having that balance and something else to spend a large part of the year has helped him play footy for so long at such a high level.
“When you’re younger, it’s Rugby, Rugby, Rugby, Rugby, but when you get older you should be looking to set yourself up for life after Rugby and be looking to find interests outside of the game.
“Ben has done a fantastic job with his numerous business interests and when he does eventually retire, he’ll be able to do so with plenty to keep him busy.”
One of the features on the menu at The Dock is the battle between two burgers; ‘Benny A’s Big Burger’, featuring Angus beef, lettuce, cheese, smoked bacon, pickle, onion rings, tomato sauce and honey mustard, or the ‘Fardy’s SFC Burger’, a Southern Fried Chicken burger with smashed avocado, lettuce, bacon jam and kewpie mayo. We had to ask Fardy which the better seller was…
“I’m not sure of the actual figures, but I do get a lot of snapchats from the Brumbies boys when they head down there, and it seems to be the Fardy burger all the time, so I think it’s out-selling the Benny A burger.
“To be honest, I’m a bit more worried that they’re eating that stuff during the week, it should only be on a Sunday! I think the Fardy burger is just in front!”
When asked to reflect on Alexander’s achievement, and what he would say to him if I could pass on a message, Fardy reflects on both the player and the person.
“I think first and foremost, regardless of how successful his Rugby has been, I just rate him as a really good mate of mine and someone that I am honoured to have played Rugby with and spent a large amount of time with. He is a special guy regardless of what he has done on the Rugby field.
“Relationships with guys like him are what you’ll keep for life, and they’re the things you’re going to remember when you finish playing. I’m just happy to have spent so much time with such a fantastic bloke.
“His Rugby legacy is amazing, the level of durability is unreal, and he’s played over 200 games for the Brumbies and Wallabies without many injuries and that’s testament to him and his dedication and professionalism, week in and week out.
“I’d obviously love to be out there with him tomorrow, but congratulations to him and enjoy the game – he won’t want any concentration on him, but good luck this weekend mate and do the job.”
Ben Alexander Fact File:
Place of Birth: Sydney, Australia, 13th November 1984
Super Rugby Debut: Brumbies def. Reds 43-11, Canberra Stadium, 1st March 2008
Super Rugby Caps: 149, 21 Tries
NRC Caps: 9 Caps, 1 Try (Canberra Vikings)
Wallaby Caps: 72, 4 Tries