Veteran Lions and Springbok wing Ashwin Willemse has unexpectedly announced his retirement from rugby in mid-season.
In a statement released on Monday the Golden Lions Rugby Union said it was with “a very heavy heart” that they are bidding farewell to Willemse.
Rugby 365 reports that Willemse, as a result of his retirement, will not be joining the Lions squad when they depart for their tour of Australasia later on Monday.
Jannie Boshoff will replace Willemse in the touring squad.
Willemse said in a statement that “there are no controversial issues” around his decision to call it a day.
He was recently linked to the controversial disciplinary hearing of forwards coach Leon Boshoff, who was cleared of having made racial slurs towards the non-white players in the team – like Willemse, Earl Rose and Lawrence Sephaka.
“I love the team, and the guys are exceptional,” Willemse said in a statement.
“It was such a breath of fresh air being able to return to the Lions after some time overseas [in France] last year, and it has been so exciting.
“I have been able to play the best rugby of my career with the Lions, and I will miss each and every one of my teammates. The time, however, has come for me to move onto the next phase of my life.”
GLRU CEO, Manie Reyneke, has echoed the team and staff’s sentiments, that this is very sad news for all who know and have had the pleasure to work with Willemse.
“Ashwin has made such a huge difference in the team and in his time here, and he will be sadly missed,” Reyneke said.
“We do appreciate the fact that he has taken the team dynamics into consideration, and I wish him all of the very best in his future endeavours.”Tweet