AJ Venter will experience the high intensity of a South African derby for the last time in Bloemfontein on Saturday before he hangs up his boots for a coaching or manager’s role at the Ballito Dolphins rugby club.
“I have actually been preparing myself for retirement for a few years,” said the 35-year-old Venter, who will finish his career in the Stormers’ No 5 jersey.
“We (the Stormers) had a nice get-together at Beyerskloof on Tuesday night to say goodbye. I am going back to Durban and will live in Ballito. My wife and I have one or two businesses there.
“I will be involved in rugby at a low level with the Ballito Dolphins, hopefully as a coach or manager. I think they play in the fourth league or something!”
Stephen Nell reports that it’s appropriate that Venter finishes his career as player in Bloemfontein against the Cheetahs because that is where it all started for him.
His debut for the Cheetahs was in 1997, but he was already on the bench for the Currie Cup final against Transvaal at Springbok Park in 1994.
“I remember I was just about on my way to the stadium with my beer and chops to attend the final as a spectator. Nelie Smith phoned and said someone came down with a blood infection and asked me to be on the bench,” said Venter.
“It’s nice to be able to finish where I started, but it does not really matter. It will just be nice to win.”
Venter has “no regrets” about anything in his career.
“The one thing that stands out as a highlight is playing for the Springboks, winning the Tri-Nations in 2004 and the Currie Cup in 1999,” he said.
“I want to thank Rassie Erasmus (Stormers coach) and Western Province for the opportunity they gave me in the Cape. I enjoyed every day.”
Venter was a controversial signing by WP, but ended up playing a prominent role when Adriaan Fondse and Andries Bekker were injured.
It was not the Stormers’ year, but Venter does not believe he is ending on a low.
“I told the guys this week at our get-together that I have experienced something unbelievable since our victory over the Highlanders in Dunedin. Most of the guys that are playing now will be involved in the Currie Cup and we have performed well since Dunedin,” said Venter.
“This will become a formidable side and young guys such as Deon Fourie, Francois Louw and Nick Koster still have to return.
“The important thing for WP is that youngsters such as Brannas (Fourie) and Koster develop fairly quickly as leaders of the calibre of Schalk Burger and Jean de Villiers.”
Venter also believes it’s important for WP to hold onto top players such as Burger, De Villiers and Peter Grant. He also believes WP will be in good hands if Luke Watson captains them in the Currie Cup.
“I have no doubt it will be a good leadership structure if Luke is the captain. But that’s if he does not play for the Springboks …”
Venter himself will lie low for a while in Ballito, but has long-term ambitions in rugby.
“I would like to get more involved later on, but not in the first year after my retirement. I will grab the opportunity when it comes.”Tweet