Rugby: Joubert calls it quits following medical advice

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.
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,'' Joubert said.

''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 serious.

The spinal fluid protecting his spine near the top of his neck had moved away, so the disc was quite close to his spine.

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 year.

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 lose.

''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.''