Retiring rugby player Eben Joubert: 'The thing is if I keep
playing then I may spoil the memories. I'm happy to have
the honour of being able to play for Otago. Lots of guys
don't get that honour'. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Eben Joubert wants to pick up his kids one day.
So when he got some medical advice that he risked ending up
in a wheelchair if he continued playing rugby he knew there
was only one option.
''It is a wonderful game but that is it. It is just a game,''
''For me in life and rugby the glass is always going to be
half full or half empty. But what I can say? I did all that I
could in terms of training and preparing for the game.
Whatever happened, happened.''
Joubert, who captained Otago in 2011 before his season was
cut short because of a banged-up knee, has had a horror run
with injuries. He has dislocated bones, as well as breaking
them, and twisted and sprained muscles and ligaments.
He has had concussions and a shoulder operation that went
wrong left him in hospital for nearly two months fighting an
infection in 2010.
But he boxed on until he took a knock while playing for his
club side, Harbour, in a match in the middle of last year.
''I bumped my head a bit and it just got tight and sore. I
just thought it was a bang and it would come right. I went to
see the doctor on Monday and he sent me for a scan. It looked
like it was just another disc problem in my neck.''
But once he got the scan the situation was a lot more
The spinal fluid protecting his spine near the top of his
neck had moved away, so the disc was quite close to his
He consulted three different specialists and they all came up
with the same story.
''If I got a shot to my neck at a compromising angle then I
could be spending the rest of my days in a wheelchair.
''That just really made me sit back and reassess where I am
at. Do I really want to carry on? I want to be able to pick
my kids up. But luckily I have other options.''
Joubert, who turns 30 in June, completed a Master of Business
Administration at the University of Otago last May.
He has just got engaged to Melanie Lemke, a native of
Hamburg, Germany, and the couple, who met when they both did
MBAs at Otago, will marry in Cape Town on January 2 next
Joubert played just 18 games for Otago, starting in 2008, but
found plenty of fans with his dedication to the jersey. In
some ways that is why he got injured so often - his
uncompromising attitude put his body in places which were
just too tough.
''The thing is if I keep playing, then I may spoil the
memories. I'm happy to have the honour of being able to play
for Otago. Lots of guys don't get that honour.''
Joubert, who came to Otago in 2008 after not getting a chance
in his native South Africa, had the pleasure of leading the
Otago side to its first win at Eden Park in 35 years against
Auckland in 2011.
He also played in the Ranfurly Shield challenge against
Southland in 2010 where he was forced to leave the field with
a dislocated shoulder in a game Otago would eventually just
''That was the best and the worst game rolled into one. But
to lead Otago over Auckland to win was pretty special.''
Joubert will not be lost to Dunedin. After starting last year
at the Radio Network, which allowed him to combine his rugby
training and qualifications, he will start a new job as
international accounts manager for Dunedin gas fireplace
manufacturer Escea next month.
''I have never been a guy who has just been a rugby player
who played computer games. I have always wanted to do other
things. That is one thing younger players have to think
about. Injuries do happen.''