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Venter will go home to retire

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

The 33-year-old Venter will return to Cape Town when his deal with London Irish ends, but he will not be playing any rugby. The 33-year-old midfielder told Planet Rugby on Tuesday that he will officially retire when his contract with the Exiles runs out in June.

"I am playing at the moment," said Venter, "but I have just eight games left [for London Irish]. I've had a great innings and a fantastic career and there comes a time to move on.

"My time has come and when I return to South Africa I will return to my medical practice in the Strand."

Since taking charge of the London Irish, Venter guided the club to fourth in the Premiership table in 2001/02 as well as to a Powergen Cup win although this season the club has found success harder to come by, they are currently ninth in the table although they do have a Cup semi-final in the near future.

It was suggested in some quarters that Venter's possible return to South Africa could solve the midfield headaches Springbok coach Rudolf Straeuli is facing. Venter also returned from England before the 1999 World Cup and played for the Free State Cheetahs in the Bankfin Currie Cup before forcing his way into the Bok World Cup squad.

He was named in Nick Mallett's RWC squad – after some fine Currie Cup showings – and looked impressive throughout the tournament before missing the knockout phases because of a suspension. But this time there will not be any dramatic return for Venter, who made it clear that he will not play any more rugby in South Africa.

Straeuli last year even resorted to using Butch James at inside centre on the disastrous year-end tour, but he will not be able to call on the experienced Venter to plug that gap.

Venter told Planet Rugby that full-time coaching was also out of the question. "My medical practice will not allow me the luxuary of enough time to coach full-time," he said.

"I would enjoy doing some coaching, helping out in the afternoons somewhere," he added. "But there is no question of me coaching full-time. A coach must be able to travel and move around – a very nomadic person – and I'm coming back to South Africa to settle in the Cape."

* Meanwhile, another Venter, Cheetahs flanker André, is apparently set to make a welcome return to the Test arena. It was reported in the weekend newspapers in South Africa that Straeuli has succeeded in getting André Venter to reverse his decision to retire from rugby and to make a return to competitive action.

According to an article in Sunday's Rapport newspaper, Straeuli has confirmed that his talks with Venter had had the desired effect and that the flanker would be returning to rugby. Venter was not available to confirm the report when contacted by Planet Rugby.

Venter, known as the Iron Man of Springbok rugby, shocked the rugby community last year when, at the age of 31, he announced he was retiring to concentrate on building his office appliances business.

Venter has played over 100 matches for the Cheetahs, remaining loyal to the team despite being the target for most other unions across South Africa for his non-stop brand of rugby. He has also played 46 matches for the Cats in the Super 12, starring under Laurie Mains's tutelage when they qualified for the semi-finals in 2000 and 2001.

A 66-Test Bok veteran, Venter, also a Sevens Springbok, won the South African Rugby Player of the Year award after a vintage 1999 season, but fell out of favour in the latter stages of Harry Viljoen's ill-fated tenure in 2001.

By Jan de Koning

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