Lions lock forward Wilhelm van der Sluys has called time on his professional rugby career, having played his last game against Ulster in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship last month.
The versatile lock recalls many fond memories in a Lions jersey, but playing at Emirates Airline Park tops his list.
“Each home game at Emirates Airline Park was special for me. I remember playing in the unfamiliar position of openside flank against the Sharks in last year’s Carling Currie Cup,” he reflects.
“That day the team clicked, and we gave a solid performance to beat a pretty decent Sharks outfit,” he adds.
Van der Sluys, who spent two seasons at Exeter Chiefs, says he appreciated the opportunity of playing his last game in the UK for the Lions but, most importantly, sharing the knowledge gained during his time there.
“Having spent a couple of years abroad, it was quite fulfilling for me to share my experiences with the team especially on aspects such as conditions as well as the styles of play to expect in the northern hemisphere.
“To get a final run against Ulster after spending a lengthy time on the sidelines due to injury was a fitting send-off at the Lions for me,” he says.
Fondly known as ‘Sluysie’ by his Lions teammates, Van der Sluys says the decision to hang up his boots was a long time coming. The Maties alumnus, who has an honours degree in Management Accounting, says he’s always been curious about life after sport.
“There was always this desire for me to get involved with opportunities outside of rugby.
“As player you begin to realise that the older you get the more you start thinking about a life outside the four lines,” concludes Van der Sluys, who now moves back to Paarl where he plans to get involved in his family’s property business.
Lions Company CEO Rudolf Straeuli wished Van der Sluys well post his decision to retire from rugby.
“Wilhelm has been a true professional and has set a fantastic example to both players around him as well as youngsters coming through our structures. We thank him for his contribution and wish him all the best on his next journey.”
Photo: Wessel Oosthuizen/Gallo Images