Nov 27, 2015
Joubert: A career full of memorable moments
Ernst Joubert will run out for his 161st and final Saracens appearance on Saturday afternoon before he hangs up his boots.
A classy back row forward who could mix the game with both brain and brawn, Joubert’s impact during his six-year spell with north Londoners has been huge.
Here, Saracens programme columnist Jason Harris pays tribute to Ernie before he heads back to the Stellenbosch sun after Saturday’s London Double Header:
“I want 50” said Ernst Joubert quietly to Owen Farrell at Welford Road in September 2011 as, with time running out, he wanted to deliver the ultimate humiliation to Leicester Tigers on their own turf: a half century of points conceded.
That decision to put the last penalty of the match between the uprights instead of into the stands seemed at odds with the pragmatic back rower signed two seasons before from Johannesburg-based Golden Lions.
Ernst is one of those cerebral players; one of the great thinkers, not usually associated with a sadistic streak, so on that sunny day at the Roundabout, the desire to twist the proverbial knife was as surprising as it was special, to me at least.
Life, it is said, is a series of moments, and we should seize each of those moments, and Ernst seized plenty of them during his tenure at the club, although the first – a yellow card on debut at Twickenham against London Irish in the 2009 London Double Header – was one that will not be on any show reel.
Another memorable moment came with a charge-down try against South Africa at Wembley later that year, which brought Saracens back from 18-6 down and into contention, leading to an unexpected victory against the then World Champions.
A try double against Newcastle to open his Premiership account a few weeks after that Wembley win gave us another glimpse of how his positional sense and dexterity were to enhance Sarries’ much-improving squad.
As Sarries went to the 2010 Premiership final he provided two more moments to remember as, after leading the team out onto the Cabbage Patch, he crossed the whitewash twice but, as we all know, the championship was won by the Tigers with virtually no time left on the clock. Twelve months later and the long wait was over, a first league title was won, and Ernst was there to savour the moment.
Off the field, Ernst has been as calm and affable as he has been on it. Always polite; always ready to have his photo taken, sign an autograph and to chat with the supporters of Sarries and of the opposition, he has always been at ease.
As one of the relatively unknown players brought in following the big spring clear-out of ’09, not much was expected of him, but Ernst has provided those memorable moments and much more besides.
Talent, consistency, leadership and a head for the game matched by few modern number 8s, whose main remit is to bash the ball up into contact, rather than play the heads-up game played so eloquently by Ernie.
That’s what sets him apart: his in-built capability to be in the right place at the right time. Very rarely was he caught out in defence, and very frequently was he present for the return of a long kick downfield, or to fill a gap in the defence whilst under pressure.
Now, at the age of 35, he’s decided finally to call it a day and leave the future to the likes of Jackson Wray, Will Fraser and Billy Vunipola, but the foundations of today’s Saracens back row were laid by Ernst and the evolution since his arrival has been one that has created one of the most formidable breakaway units in Europe.
At Welford Road Ernst got his 50 points. We, the Sarries supporters, are privileged to get 160 games. Now for a final 80 minutes where it all began, at a place most fitting for his final appearance. Thanks for everything, Ernie, and enjoy a very long and happy retirement.