It’s been an honour to serve as CEO of the South African Rugby Legends Association, writes former Springbok STEFAN TERBLANCHE in the latest SA Rugby magazine.
The South African Rugby Legends Association was founded in 2001 and registered as a non-profit company in 2004 by former Scottish and Springbok hooker, John Allan, together with South African businessman Gavin Varejes.
After retiring from rugby, it has been my home for the last eight and half years. Retiring from professional sport is never easy and we can look at countless examples of mental illnesses among former players, many of them suffering throughout their playing careers in silence.
Many of them always thought that it was just the highs and lows of everyday professional sport, a profession admired and adored by millions of fans without really understanding the mental demands put on pro athletes.
Not only do they have to perform to their own expectations and high standards, but often they have to carry the hopes and unrealistic demands of coaches and fans alike.
When the stadium lights go out and they leave the field for the last time, they find it incredibly hard to find their way in society and suffer a slow demise to whatever life after professional sport might have in mind for them.
The South African Rugby Legends Association gave me a place to belong. It gave me purpose to change lives but, more importantly, it gave me structure and a basic platform to perform this, close to the game I love.
It gave me this opportunity, along with many other greats, on and off the rugby field to change the lives of young rugby players, boys and girls. Passing on the passion is our byline at Sarla and the joy of a young rugby player running with the ball or scoring a try in the dying moment of a tightly contested match is, without a doubt, priceless.
It makes all those broken bones, torn muscles, surgeries and stitches while risking life and limb for your match-day jersey and badge seem worthwhile, and you would exchange all of that for the perfect moment while passing on the undying passion for the game.
I was always hypercritical of the name South African Rugby Legends in my playing days and wondered how anyone could call himself or herself a legend. This honour will ultimately be decided by the fans and no matter how hard you try, this will never ever be decided by you.
Over the last eight and a half years I have learned one thing while serving as CEO of this unique association; and by unique I refer to the only association of its rugby kind in the world.
I learned that the ‘legend’ in this case has got absolutely nothing to do with what we did as rugby players on the playing fields during our playing careers –- it’s got everything to do with what ex-rugby players continue to do at their own cost and in their own time to inspire young South Africans.
The honour has been all mine!