An Interview with Chasing The Sun's, Greg Lomas

Wednesday, 9 February, 2022

Greg Lomas was recently recognised as the Top Film Director of 2021 by the Loeries! A prestigious honour! We featured an interview with him in Issue 36 of The Coffee Magazine. We still get goosebumps thinking about the moments captured in the Chasing the Sun documentary.

Keeping the main thing, the main thing  

The story of the Rugby World Cup 2019 as told to Coffee Magazine by Greg Lomas, one of the Directors of the life-changing documentary “Chasing the Sun”

All images: Greg Lomas

Sport, like music, has an incredible way of bringing people together and I’m sure wherever you are in the world, you have felt emotionally invested in a team. As a South African sports fan, I think we can all remember where we were when we watched the 2019 Rugby World Cup Final. For me, it was a non-traditional end to my heavily pregnant friends baby shower, where we swopped our flower crowns for our green and gold and rushed to make it in time for the anthems. The adrenaline felt like 10 double shot espressos coursing through my veins. That Castle never tasted so good!

Now imagine for a second, that you’re sitting across from Siya Kolisi or Rassie Erasmus, dark room, cameras rolling and you can ask them anything you want. That was the opportunity that Greg Lomas was faced with when he sat down to conduct the one-on-one interviews for SAFTA award-winning documentary, Chasing the Sun. His is the voice asking the questions in the background!

“I was in charge of directing the main body of interviews and my partner Colwyn Thomas lead a team across the length of the country following backstories and capturing South Africa as a character”, says Greg. 

He and his team of filmmakers ended up travelling a parallel course with the Springboks and in their own way, faced a similar battle that mirrored the epic task that the Boks faced. “We had a huge team, and it took a massive team effort, much like the Springboks, and we stripped away a lot of roles with the team. For example we had complete transparency and would watch cuts collectively and anyone in the production team could present an idea or a direction. This is only possible if you strip away ego, which is what the Springboks did. As World Cup-Winning Springbok Coach Rassie Erasmus famously says in the documentary, “Let the main thing stay the main thing.”

Rassie Erasmus was an executive producer of Chasing The Sun, and that buy-in, and the unprecedented behind the scenes footage, from the change room during games, to pre-match team talks to the training grounds and the business of rugby - Chasing the Sun gave South Africans a personal peak into the massive machine that is the Springboks. 

Supersport had sent a film crew along with the Springboks a year out from World Cup in 2019, with the intention of making something from the journey.” Says Greg.  “Luckily, South Africa won the 2019 Rugby World Cup and Supersport had recorded one of the greatest sporting stories in the world.” 

Lomas' company, Scholars Film, had worked closely with T+W, the production house that worked with Supersport on Chasing the Sun, on numerous sports projects prior to the RWC and they took the opportunity with both hands.  “T+W have really pushed the envelope of sports marketing and Gareth Whitaker, the creative director and founder, is a real visionary.” 

But it wasn’t all plain sailing for the production team. The Covid19 pandemic caused havoc with the access to the players and travel restrictions meant a very difficult creative process for the filmmakers. “We could only conduct the interviews in June of 2020 once we were in Level 3 and players, coaches, and management were all in lockdown, so a real logistical challenge to interview everyone, and to be creative within the protocols” says Greg.  “The team were passionate and determined to air the final episode on the anniversary of the final, so covid19 didn’t help the intense turnaround.”

Chasing the Sun is an intensely personal look at the humans that make up the Springboks and reveals a side of the big, burly rugby players that one wouldn’t ever get to see off the rugby field.

“It wasn’t a traditional approach to a sports narrative, especially rugby.” Says Greg. “I was nervous how it would be received. I thought it was maybe too edgy. But the response from the public was unbelievable and that has been the most rewarding part of the journey.”

Everyone knows the result, South Africa 32 - England 12. So how did the filmmakers keep the interest with the result already known, a year after the famous victory?  

“We had an intention to lift the human experience of the viewer. Our approach was two-fold. The first was to connect with the people involved on a human level, so the viewer could connect emotionally to events that they already knew about. The second was to share insight to events. We believed this would elevate the experience of the viewer, which seemed to work!"

“So for everyone we interviewed I think they found the interviews refreshing because we weren’t just talking rugby; we were talking about matters of the heart, about impact, and I think the players and coaches found that refreshing and opened up emotionally.

One of the themes that Rassie keeps re-iterating to his players during the toughest parts of the World Cup is the service of the Springboks to the Nation. Greg reflects on the interviews and points to one of the many sub-plots that highlights the coaches impact this had on the players.

“I would say the story of Makazole Mapimpi acknowledging Uyinene Mrwetyana in the warm up game against Japan is one of my favourite scenes. It’s deeply emotional, but I also think it’s the moment that the team found their purpose. And that purpose is the reason we won the World Cup."


“Rassie Erasmus is an emotional and deeply caring man. So many interviews surprised me and moved me. For example I loved interviewing Sbu Nkosi and Bongi Mbonambi. The team had the biggest hearts and were so committed” 

For Greg, being a massive rugby fan, Chasing the Sun was a surreal experience.

“I’m a massive rugby fan and the story of the Springboks winning the Rugby World Cup touched me very deeply, so sitting with my heroes, and talking about the story for hours on end was one of the greatest experience of my life. I definitely had to pinch myself.” 

“Every morning when I drove to the T+W office to work on the edit I would think to myself, “Everyday I get to work on the documentary about the Springboks winning the Rugby World Cup. Crazy! I still receive messages from strangers about how the series changed their lives. It makes me proud that we did the story justice, and just how important these stories are for our country and our own narrative.” 

You can watch it all over again on Showmax.

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