Duane Vermeulen says he could have stayed at the Vodacom Bulls, but chose to join Irish side Ulster rather than being “stuck in one place”.
The veteran No 8 inked a two-year deal with Ulster in September while in Australia with the Springboks during the Rugby Championship.
The 35-year-old signed for the Bulls in 2020, and led the team to the Currie Cup title a year later, but his deal with the Pretoria outfit had ended and he was tipped to return to Japan, where he had spent two seasons with the Kubota Spears.
Ahead of Ulster’s Champions Cup quarter-final against Toulouse on Saturday, Vermeulen said: “I was just in a bad spot in South Africa. My contract ended and I was looking at going back to Japan.
“Then this offer came up and I sat down with my wife and said, ‘Listen, let’s do this as a family, one last Hail Mary before I retire’.
“I’ve been away from my family for the past seven years and people don’t realise how difficult that is. But we sat down and we said, ‘Let’s do it together, do it as a family, and when we go back we can all sit down and say this was the last step’.
“There would have been one or two [other offers] in the pipeline, but I had to make an immediate decision. I could have stayed at the Bulls, but I decided to try something else.
“That’s the biggest thing. I had been in South Africa, played for the Bulls, Stormers, and Cheetahs – life is about experiences as well and not just being stuck in one place.
“A lot of people are really comfortable doing that but I love to move around, learn a bit more. Everywhere I go I learn from different players and cultures. It’s a journey. You’ve got to love the journey. That played a major role in my decision to come here.”