Aged just 25 and a blossoming career still well in store, one of Namibia’s most versatile hookers Obert Nortje shockingly announced yesterday that he will be retiring from the game due to a serious medical condition.
The darting Welwitschias’ hooker was possibly going to be one of the key players for Namibia at this year’s Rugby World Cup in France, but that dream is now in shards, as he will now be closing that chapter of his life.
Nortje, who has to date made 23 appearances for Namibia, including the 2019 World Cup in Japan, said he was left with no choice but to hang up his boots and concentrate on his health and overall wellbeing.
“Sadly, I have decided to step away from rugby and contact sports completely due to a diagnosed health condition. I need to take my health, future and quality of life into consideration. This has been one of the toughest decisions I ever had to make, but I need to look after myself and I look forward to new opportunities and challenges. I will look at other platforms which I can engage in despite my condition,” said Nortje, who made his debut against Senegal in 2017 during the Africa Cup.
He was part of the contracted players whom the Namibia Rugby Union (NRU) announced this week, but he has since withdrawn.
“It is not easy to say goodbye to teammates who are like my family. It’s very emotional to have to part from them. I thank my teammates, management staff and the union for everything they’ve done for my career.”
NRU chief executive officer John Heynes wished Nortje well and assured that he has the union’s unwavering support in whatever future endeavour he will embark on.
“We trust that you will still succeed in whatever you take on from here. It is a real shame to lose you as you are such a talented player and we have hoped to have you in our team for many more years. You are no isolated case and as with many sportsmen or women, we respect and admire your decision to put your health first,” said Heynes.
Meanwhile, national team head coach Allister Coetzee admitted to being saddened to lose Nortje as he was a part of his plans for the World Cup and beyond.
“It is never easy to see any player have to retire at such a young age, especially for such reasons. I was very shocked to receive the news about his condition. I believe this is a very hard decision he had to make, because I know how much effort he puts in. I have seen him grow and he is so passionate about the game. He has been a real asset and I am forever thankful for his contribution to the team and wish him all the best in his future endeavours.”