Durban — Lions veteran Ross Cronje has called time on an impressive first-class career that included 10 Test matches for South Africa and 156 matches across all formats for the Johannesburg franchise.
The 32-year-old played a single Super Rugby match for the Sharks in his native KZN before joining the Lions for a stellar career that spanned a golden era under coaches Johan Ackermann and Swys de Bruin.
As a youth, scrumhalf Cronje featured in a dream Michaelhouse backline of 2007 that included fellow future Springboks in Patrick Lambie and Ruan Combrinck, as well as his twin brother, Guy, who played international rugby for Zimbabwe.
Ross and flyhalf Guy were the halfback pairing in that schoolboy backline that had Lambie at fullback and Combrinck on the wing.
Cronje, who also played for the SA Under-20 team, has recalled some of the highlights from his career.
“Our Currie Cup victory in 2015 (against Western Province) is definitely up there, but a close second was playing in the Super Rugby final (of 2016, against the Hurricanes in Wellington). Despite the result not going our way, it was amazing to experience it all,” he recalls.
A former captain of the side, Cronje believes the current squad competing in the United Rugby Championship will recover from a difficult start overseas and could be strong contenders as the tournament progresses.
“I’ve heard positive things from the guys about their recent tour to the UK, coupled with the excitement of playing in a new tournament, says Cronje.
“It may have been a tough start for us, but the guys seem to be finding their feet (they beat the Stormers away in their last URC fixture) and I am positive that success is around the corner.”
Cronje says he will now swap his rugby kit for corporate attire as he tackles the next phase of his life.
“My focus now shifts to the property world where I’ll be joining a property group specializing in a range of commercial and industrial portfolios. It’s something I’m really looking forward to —embarking on a second career."
Lions CEO Rudolf Straeuli thanked Cronje for his valuable contribution to the franchise and to the game of rugby in South Africa.
“Ross has been a prime example of a true professional. Besides being a quality player, he displayed immense maturity within the leadership group and served as an outstanding example to the younger players in our system,” said Straeuli.
“We wish him and his family well as they embark on a life after rugby,” he concluded.