Springbok and Cheetahs flank Oupa Mohoje has opened up on the relief he felt after extending his stay with the team. DYLAN JACK reports.
It was confirmed on Monday that Mohoje had signed a one-year contract extension with the Cheetahs, keeping him with the Bloemfontein-based side until at least 31 May 2021.
The news will have been a weight off the 29-year-old’s shoulders as he has seen the future of his playing career come under threat due a knee injury he suffered while captaining the Cheetahs against Munster back in 2018.
The injury ruled Mohoje out for the rest of the 2018-19 season and successive setbacks have kept him out of rugby since.
‘I think anybody in my shoes would have been fearful,’ Mohoje told SARugbymag.co.za. ‘The fact that I hadn’t played in two years and the fact that just before you are about to enter into negotiations, Covid-19 hits. I think anybody in my shoes would have felt the same way.
‘Look, it is a big relief. The main thing right now is just to make sure that I get some game time and get to play. I have to make a name for myself again because the guys around me are performing well. I think I need to bring my part when we get back. I am grateful to be given the opportunity by the Cheetahs.
‘For me, that is what I want to go for. It is a reset. I need to reset and go for it again from scratch.’
Mohoje confirmed that he has fully recovered from his injury and was actually passed fit to play before the PRO14 season was halted by the Covid-19 pandemic back in March.
‘I was able to play four months ago, it was just before the game against Leinster that I got cleared to play and the coronavirus hit and the game got cancelled. There was nothing I could do about it.
‘After two years of no contact, you have to recondition again. That is something I am going to have to get used to. Luckily it is something that I enjoy, so it shouldn’t be that difficult.’
Having been through his fair share of ups and downs over the past two years, Mohoje emphasised the importance of rugby players looking after their mental health.
‘Nothing will make you think about life after rugby like a long-term injury. I did go through my lows … it was really, really tough. The main thing that kept me focused was my family. They were there for me. Even when I thought I didn’t need them, they were there for me. My brothers – who I stay with – are amazing people and they made it easier for me to go through lockdown. I have them to thank.
‘I have been seeing a therapist. It is something that has helped me so much. I know I am not the only rugby player going through this. But I recommend that rugby players start seeing therapists. Even if they are OK, they need to see someone and start going through that process.’
Mohoje’s last Test for the Springboks was against Wales in Washington DC, where he started in a loose trio featuring Dan du Preez and Kwagga Smith.
He says while he is going to have to work hard to earn a call-up again, he still would love to wear the green and gold once more.
‘Without a doubt. Look, I still believe I have a few years of rugby in me still. So I would really love to play for the Boks again one day. But I know it’s not just gonna come. I am going to have to work hard to get there again.’
Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images