Former Stormers and Western Province lock Gerbrandt Grobler believes the ban he has been serving for a failed drugs test could turn out to be a ‘blessing in disguise’, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Grobler tested positive for a banned substance during the 2014 Currie Cup and was handed a two-year ban at the beginning of last year, but he is now set to make his comeback after signing a three-year deal with Racing 92.
The 24-year-old, who is available to play again from October, will join the French club ahead of the 2016-17 season, and told SARugbymag.co.za that he couldn’t wait to make a fresh start.
‘When the ban was first handed down, there was a time when I thought I wasn’t going to play again … But after eight months or so, I realised I’m not finished [with rugby] and that I could make a comeback somewhere. However, I’ll admit it was a bit surreal when a good offer was presented by Racing. I flew over about three months ago, and as soon as I arrived I felt like it was a club where I wanted to be.’
Although Grobler says he had been involved in some talks with the Bulls and Sharks, the offer from the French Top 14 champs was ultimately too good to refuse.
‘In a way, these two years could actually be a blessing in disguise, I think it’s changed me as a person and will have changed me as a player. I’m so excited to come back and for what the future holds.
‘Securing the deal with Racing has taken a while to sink in, but I’m just so grateful. You make mistakes in life, and obviously people will judge you on that, but for me it’s all about improving myself. I’m really looking forward to this new journey and playing alongside some incredible players. There will be so much to learn.’
While serving his ban, Grobler has spent time training at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport to remain fit, but he admits that returning to the Stormers and Western Province was never really an option.
‘We haven’t kept in contact after everything; obviously it’s a sensitive matter. I don’t think you want to ever burn bridges, and I have great memories from my rugby days in Cape Town, but I also realised it’s important to not go back into the past.
‘When it all happened, and I’ll be honest, you do expect a little bit more support from people, not just in rugby, but in life,’ he added. ‘Obviously people judge you on your past and things that happened, but you wake up and realise what life’s about.
'In a way, what’s happened to me over the past two years could be the best thing that could have happened. It’s helped me realise what I want in life and helped me to grow up a bit. It’s been a real learning experience and provided a realisation of what’s really important.’
Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images