Au revoir to AJ?

AJ Venter could be playing in Europe next season if he fails to reach an agreement with the Sharks this week.

The 33-year-old’s contract with the Durban-based side ends at the conclusion of the Absa Currie Cup and after six years at the union, Venter’s loss will be a setback to Dick Muir who has looked to build a young team around him.

“My contract ends in two months from now, so I’ve basically only got two months pay left and then it stops,” he told Keo.co.za.

“So I need to finalise something very quickly, in fact, it’ll probably be before the end of the week.”

Venter said the Sharks initial contract renewal offer hadn’t met all his needs.

“The Sharks did make me an offer, but it really didn’t meet my requirements.

” I’d love to stay in Durban, but if I’m not going to get what I really want then I’ll have look at another team that can provide a better financial deal.

“At this moment my agent and I are looking at overseas options. In France, there’s been initial interest from Toulon. My agent has also informed me that English side, Northampton Saints, have expressed an interest in traveling to South Africa to meet with me.

“We’ve got lots of a lot positive feedback but naturally overseas clubs are hesitant until they find out how serious I am,” he said.

Europe won’t be unfamiliar territory for Venter. He played in Italy for Rovigo from 1994 to 1998.

Venter’s tone though told the story of a man torn between his commitment to a union who he has represented on 118 occasions, and a desire for his worth to be recognised and rewarded.

“Staying at the Sharks would be the easy option. Then I don’t have to do the house move and I could stay close to my friends.

“But to be honest I’m just looking for seven to nine month deal. So it’s not a extended time away from home, probably just from January to September if I sign with a local team or from November to June if I sign with a European club.”

In the past, players have been criticised for snubbing South African rugby at the end of their careers in favour of a big pay-day ahead of retirement. And when asked about what his motivation for a overseas move would be, he does little to quell that perception.

“When you get to the end of your career you obvoiusly want to secure the best type of financial deal that you can. It helps with your future and you have to look after yourself and your family.

“I’ve got a helluva lot to offer. I’m not done.”

By Ryan Vrede