Sharks hardman AJ Venter is thrilled to be involved with the Springboks again.
Venter arrived in Bloemfontein from Durban on Wednesday morning to join the rest of the 45-man Bok training squad for a day of “medicals and fitness testing”.
But it could have been so different for the 32-year-old. After a series of knee problems plagued him recently, the 23 Test veteran was tempted to call it quits. “I was going to end my rugby career at the end of this year and pursue other avenues,” Venter told keo.co.za. “But the fact that I’m really enjoying my rugby this season and I’ve never played in a World Cup has motivated me to keep going.”
And many rugby fans, not only those in Durban, will be relieved to hear Venter has pledged his name to the Boks cause at least until the World Cup in France.
“There is a lot of rugby to be played between now and the Rugby World Cup, but I would like to give it my best shot to be part of that squad. If it doesn’t happen at least I will know that I gave myself a chance,” he said.
“I was with Johann (Muller) when the squad was announced and to see sucha big guy in tears just shows what it means to be a Springbok. I have the same feeling.”
While Venter could never be accused of giving anything less than 100% on the field, his aggressive style often got him into trouble. He has calmed down though and his experience could be invaluable to Jake White if the Boks hope to win the William Webb Ellis trophy in 2007.
Following the medical and fitness tests on Wednesday, the Boks will start the camp proper from Thursday, with a hectic schedule planned for the next few weeks.
By Andrew Hollely