Sharksworld was fortunate to catch up with our old friend (and former Sharks hardman) AJ Venter, for a quick chat. Our thanks go to www.myfamousnames.com for making the interview possible.
AJ’s always been a busy guy – someone who likes to keep active and is always keen to get involved in new ventures. Last time I caught up with him he was in the middle of getting his storage company off the ground. This time around, he involved in a venture that connects fans with their favourite local celebrities in a unique way. AJ was at the airport in Cape Town, waiting to meet a friend, when I finally managed to track him down.
Obviously the first question I had was the circumstances surrounding AJ’s departure from Durban. He tells me that “I realised halfway through the Super 14 this year that I’d hardly played any rugby. I was injured in the second game and then fell out of favour a bit, what with Keegan and the guys playing so well. I didn’t want to go out on those terms, so I decided that I should set my sights on playing another season.
“I informed the Sharks that I wanted to carry on, but after waiting for 6 weeks, I still couldn’t get an answer out of them.” According to Venter, he turned down a number of European offers, but needed to look after his own future. When the Sharks still hadn’t even been prepared to start negotiations around a new contract by the time of the Super 14 semi, he tells me he had no option but to accept the offer from WP, one which had been on the table for a while. AJ plans to play until the end of next year’s Super 14, before having another look at his options.
We spoke a little about life in Cape Town and the challenges the young WP team seem to be facing. AJ reckons “I’ve seen this before, both with Free State and the Sharks. You have to remember that the bulk of the Springbok team now is WP players – it’s like we’re starting from scratch. We’re not like the Lions where their Currie Cup team is their Super 14 team, except for Joe van Niekerk. These youngsters have got a real hunger though and will get there. It just takes time.”
Turning our attention back to the Sharks, AJ quashes the rumour that there is any major dissatisfaction within the camp. “I don’t know anything about that,” he says. “All that I will say, though, is that when you have a team of 8, 9 or 10 guys who are all 21 or 22 and all of a sudden they are all the heroes and are getting a lot of attention from everywhere, some of them handle it better than others. Last year the Sharks had John Smit, Bobby Skinstadt, Butch James, AJ Venter and so on, guys with a lot of experience. Now you have guys who are 25 and under who are the senior players…”
I put forward the opinion that Brad Barritt seems to be the one youngster in the setup that actually does have the maturity and level-headedness to handle the burden of leadership. AJ concurs that his loss will be keenly felt in Sharks country. “That’s the one guy involved in rugby right now that I have the most respect for. We still speak every week. His maturity is just incredible.” We agreed that Barritt does seem to be highly-rated where it really counts: amongst his coaches and team mates.
Talking of AJ setting the example, I reminded him of the time last year when AJ “nearly took Rory Kockott’s head off”in a Currie Cup game. AJ replies “that happens just about every game! No, Rory is a great player, full of energy. He’s the sort of player everybody hates playing against, because he’s always talking. I think that day he was just getting carried away and was starting to annoy the ref.
“He’s a lot like I was when I was much younger!” he laughs.
We’d like to thank AJ for taking the time to chat to us. Do be sure to check out AJ’s new venture, My Famous Names, a unique service which allows fans to receive authentic, personalised MMS messages from their favourite stars. Ryan Kankowski, Beast Mtawarira, Frans Steyn, Butch James and many other famous people, including, of course, AJ himself, have already been signed up, with plenty more to follow. Make a famous friend today!Tweet