Willemse shock for Lions

Ashwin Willemse has announced his retirement with immediate effect and will not travel with the Lions on their tour of Australasia.

Willemse returned to the Lions after a stint with French club Biarritz and has been one of the positives in an otherwise disappointing season. Willemse doesn’t have the pace of old but is still the team’s joint leading try-scorer with Jaque Fourie on three.

Willemse, 27, announced his retirement on Monday morning with the team leaving later that day, with Jannie Boshoff his replacement for the tour.

The Springbok winger denied the Leon Boshoff incident had anything to do with his retirement.

‘There are no controversial issues around my decision at all,’ Willemse said in a statement.

‘I love the team and the guys are exceptional.’

‘It was such a breath of fresh air being able to return to the Lions after some time overseas last year, and it has been so exciting,’ he said.

‘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 team-mates. The time, however, has come for me to move onto the next phase of my life.’

Lions CEO Manie Reyneke admitted Willemse’s loss will be a major blow for the squad as they head overseas.

‘Ashwin has made such a huge difference in the team and in his time here, and he will be sadly missed,’ said Reyneke.

‘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.’