Nov 27, 2015
Memories to savour for departing Joubert
Ernst Joubert will be calling time on a wonderful Saracens career this weekend.
The South African loose forward will be hanging up his boots after Saracens’ London Double Header clash against Worcester Warriors.
The elegant No8 has made 160 appearances for the club since he joined in the summer of 2009. In a glittering career in north London, he has helped Saracens appear in five major finals, securing two Aviva Premiership titles and the LV=Cup in the process.
A player who has been a constant source of dependability, Joubert automatically established himself as one of club’s leading lights. In his first season with the club he captained Saracens in the Premiership final, when they agonisingly lost out to Leicester Tigers despite Joubert’s best efforts by scoring two tries.
Ernst would go on to play a vital part in the club’s maiden Premiership title win in 2010/11 and during his time in English rugby, has carved out the reputation as one the game’s finest back rowers.
Like most players, Father Time eventually catches up. Joubert will be heading back to his native Stellenbosch in early December and will leave with, as he reveals, a handful of medals and a plenty of good memories.
I’m overwhelmed and joyful when I think of all the great memories I’ve made here.
“I haven’t really given it too much thought and I think on the day when I leave it’ll hit me,” said Joubert on his impending retirement. “I’ve had an amazing time over in the UK, there’s definitely a tinge of sadness, but I’m overwhelmed and joyful when I think of all the great memories I’ve made here.”
Joubert arrived at Saracens when the winds of change were howling through the club. After a high turnover of players and staff, Joubert (alongside club stalwarts such as Hugh Vyvyan and Steve Borthwick) would begin to move the club forward under the tutelage of coaching duo Brendan Venter and Mark McCall.
In this first season Joubert would spearhead the Men in Black’s charge to the Premiership final. With Steve Borthwick struggling with a knee injury, Joubert, who had led the side so well in his absence, was entrusted with the captaincy for the Twickenham showpiece.
“Looking back at when I first left South Africa I wasn’t really sure where I wanted to go as a player. I knew that I wanted to play somewhere abroad, to travel and try and play as well as I could in a new environment. I thought I’d be here for two or, at most, three seasons. But in the first season, with Borths (Steve Borthwick) getting injured and with Wikus (Van Heerden) leaving, I found myself being captain which changed my outlook on things.
“All of sudden I was captaining Saracens in a Premiership final. It was a big privilege for me to captain the club in such a massive game, and was something that not even in my wildest imagination I thought I would do. To go from moving to a club at the beginning of the season to captaining the side in a Premiership final, playing for a brilliant side, was great. “
As mentioned Saracens would taste the most bitter of bitter defeats, only to go on and win the competition a year later, a feat the north Londoners would repeat in the 2014/15 season.
On the first Premiership win, in which he left the field bloodied and bruised but with a winners medal, Joubert said: “I’d like to say it was difficult to pick the players back up (after the 2010 Premiership Final defeat), but it really wasn’t as we have such a great bunch of guys here, and the self-belief we had in that group really was amazing. I’m sure not many gave us a chance in that first season. Not many people knew what to expect from us and then we made the final that season.
To come back the next year and win it just shows the character of the side. We’ve done it twice in my time at the club, after winning it last season too.
“Maybe, looking back, it was a good thing that we got beaten in that final. We got the idea and the self-belief that we were good enough, and with that and with the team spirit and the talent we had in that squad we just started cracking on. To come back the next year and win it just shows the character of the side. We’ve done it twice in my time at the club, after winning it last season too.”
Joubert has become the lynchpin of the Saracens squad during his time at the club. Highly respected, approachable and amiable in his nature he has been a natural leader within the group whose philosophy is emblazoned on the Allianz Park reception; ‘Trophies are great but it’s the people who matter’. That kinship is something that Joubert believes is the lasting legacy of his time with the club.
We pride ourselves on the phrase, ‘making memories’ and we’ve had some great memories off the field and some great memories together on the field.
“The family feel is what I’ll miss most,” he said. “The laughs too. We pride ourselves on the phrase, ‘making memories’ and we’ve had some great memories off the field and some great memories together on the field. We’re proud of every guy beside us in the team, and proud of ourselves for being part of that group. There’s definitely friendships for life. I’ll probably stay on the Whatsapp group chat with the lads and if, life allows me, pop over to England to catch up with everyone and hopefully they’ll come over to South Africa and enjoy some good Stellenbosch wines with me and the family.
“There’s so many memories of my six years it’s hard to single any out. Being part of the club and seeing the club grow has been a real stand out. When I came in here the club was going through a massive change up, and from that point Saracens has become one big family. I have family myself now, I have two beautiful daughters and an amazing wife. I came to the UK as a single man, so everything has changed in that sense during my time here. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I’d be here for six years. The way the club has looked after me and my family has been amazing, and it almost makes it even more difficult to leave but at 35 years old it’s time to crack on with other things.”
Ernst, farewell but certainly not goodbye.
See two Aviva Premiership Rugby games at Twickenham from just £24 as Saracens face Worcester Warriors and London Irish play Wasps at the London Double Header on 28 November. Click here for tickets.