AJ Venter retires from international rugby

The Springbok rugby team to tour Australasia for the away leg in this year’s Tri-Nations series suffered a blow on Monday when utility forward AJ Venter announced his retirement from international rugby.

Selected in a make-up squad minus the top Boks who have been put into a reconditioning programme, Venter was to have added much-needed experience and muscle to a team that is going to struggle against what is expected to be full-strength Wallaby and All Black outfits.

His retirement also means he will also miss out on a possible World Cup place with the Springboks, but has cited personal and business commitments in Durban and South Africa as his reasons for his retirement.

He will, however, remain with the Sharks for the remainder of his one-year contract, which ends after the 2008 Vodacom Super 14, and will be playing for the Sharks in the Absa Currie Cup this season.

“My current contract with the Sharks will continue unchanged as they have been loyal to me and have given me their constant support throughout the last seven years, and I would like to use the next year to leave something behind,” he explained.

“I did not want to retire outright without giving something back to the Sharks and the loyal Sharks fans who have supported me throughout my stint here in Durban,” he admitted.

“I would like to leave here with the satisfaction of having contributed by imparting something to the younger Sharks players.”

He went on to say a big thank you to SA Rugby and the Springboks for the years he has enjoyed with them, including a Tri-Nations-winning medal in 2004.

“Having represented the Springboks has obviously been the highlight of my playing career and I have some very special memories over the years,” he said.

Meanwhile, Springbok selectors announced changes to the squad that will travel to Australasia. The team leaves on Wednesday for Sydney.

Venter has been replaced by Jacques Cronje. Luke Watson, who has sustained a rib injury, will not be part of the squad as he is expected to take much longer to heal. Kabamba Floors will take his place.

Medical opinion indicates that Tonderai Chavhanga’s rib injury is not serious enough to rule him out of the touring squad. He will travel with the other members of the squad.—Sapa

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