Smally calls it a day

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William Small-Smith scoring a try for the Toyota Free State Cheetahs when they beat the Golden Lions 31–28 in the 2019 Currie Cup final in Bloemfontein. PHOTO: NICOLETTE TALJAARD / BLOEMFONTEIN COURANT

The Toyota Cheetahs utility back, William Small-Smith, has officially announced his retirement from rugby.

The 29-year-old Small-Smith has been undergoing rehab from a concussion over the last few months and has made the call to hang up his boots.

Small-Smith said that it was with great sadness that he was forced to quit the game due to medical reasons.

“I have been a Toyota Cheetah from a very young age. It has been my privilege to represent them on and off the field.

“Together with a group of friends, I have been fighting for a cause greater than myself. This was my daily labour and I have loved every minute of it!

“Thus, it is with great sadness, that because of medical reasons, the time has come for me to put an end to my rugby career.

“Every time you take the field, a player accepts a normal amount of risk. If you do not have peace with that risk, you hesitate or doubt, chances are that you may be a second too slow or one action too late.

“My goal was always to win the respect of my team members and to ensure they know that I have their backs. I cannot with a good conscience return to the rugby field and deliver the performance I would like to. That risk for me has just grown too big, taking into consideration my long-term health and the wellbeing of my family.

“I have been fortunate enough to work with leaders in the field of concussion, Dr Patricios, Mrs Brink and Mrs De Jong, and they have helped me recover to the extent that I will not suffer further symptoms going forward. Nevertheless, rugby is a contact sport, and my ability to take contact and put my body on the line as any team member does, would put me at a high risk of permanent injury.

“I would like to thank the Cheetahs Management, their medical team, coach Hawies (Fourie) and his fellow coaches and all the players. Every day I laced up my boots and ran onto the field with you guys was an honour and I will forever keep it close to my heart. It was about how we did it and with whom we did it that made the game worthwhile. Rugby was the vehicle that gave us a united cause.

“My fondest memories are about the people I shared this journey with, and to every one of you that played a part in my rugby career, I am truly grateful. I will continue to wear my Cheetah badge daily, but now as a supporter and lifelong friend.”

As a player, Small-Smith was a part of the only Junior Springbok team ever to have won the World Rugby U20 World Championships, back in 2012.

At the Cheetahs he lifted the Currie Cup in 2016 and in 2019, but only played in the most recent of the two finals.

Recently, the Cheetahs tighthead prop, Charles Marais, also called time on his career because of a third neck injury he had sustained. – MORGAN PIEK