Johannesburg - Former Springbok wing and SA Player of the year Ashwin Willemse on Monday announced his retirement from rugby with immediate effect and will not be joining the Lions on their Australasian tour. They depart on Monday night.
The Golden Lions Rugby Union (GLRU), in a statement, has expressed their sadness about his retirement.
"It is with a very heavy heart that the Golden Lions Rugby Union are bidding farewell to Lions player Ashwin Willemse.
"Willemse announced his retirement this morning, (Monday) and as a result will not be joining the Super 14 Lions squad when they depart for their tour of Australasia this evening in the 2009 Vodacom Super 14."
Jannie Boshoff will replace Willemse.
Willemse has stated that, "there are no controversial issues around my decision at all. I love the team, and the guys are exceptional. It was such a breath of fresh air being able to return to the Lions after some time overseas last year, and it has been so exciting. I have been able to play the best rugby of my career with the Lions, and I will miss each and every one of my teammates. The time, however, has come for me to move onto the next phase of my life".
GLRU CEO, Manie Reyneke, has echoed the team and staff's sentiments, that this is very sad news for all who know and have had the pleasure to work with Willemse.
"Ashwin has made such a huge difference in the team and in his time here, and he will be sadly missed. We do appreciate the fact that he has taken the team dynamics into consideration, and I wish him all of the very best in his future endeavours."