Where Are They Now | Ernst Joubert
Ernst Joubert played 161 games for Saracens, captained the side and was in the team that reached the club’s first Premiership final in 2010 and returned the following season to help lift the title at Twickenham. He was a No 8 with a big heart, a big hit and an on-going admiration for the ‘Men in Black’.
Having returned to his native South Africa after recovering from the post-Twickenham celebrations 11 years ago and he is now heading up the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport Rugby International Institute.
The programme SAS Rugby offers to expose players to High Performance sport and gives them the opportunity to become professional rugby players. Opened in 2012, the Academy of Sport is the home of the Springboks Sevens, U20s and the Western Province Rugby Institute. It is also the preferred choice for the Springbok senior side for holding camps. Argentina, England, Wales, Brazil, Kenya and Zimbabwe have also been hosted at Stellenbosch.
“Fresh from having played in England, I became the link with the overseas market. I was soon appointed head of the institute at Stellenbosch and we’ve been running the academy since 2017,” explained Joubert in an interview with Sport24.
“It has picked up gradually and we were fortunate to have Neil de Kock helping out within the rugby division to help it grow. We have evolved into coaching the coaches and have had guest coaches such as John Mitchell, Phil Davies, Matt Proudfoot and Gregor Townsend as guest speakers for our seminars.
“My role is primarily the recruitment of players for our five-month programme to fit in with the overseas market, but I still get my hands dirty doing some hands-on coaching. It gets really hot in Stellenbosch during the day so we have 6am sessions and put the players through their paces to show them what professionalism is all about.
“Corne Uys is our head coach and I serve as his assistant and work with the forwards and help with some attacking stuff as well. Work is only a 3km Vespa ride from home every morning!”
The wheel of life really has come full circle for the now 41-year-old. He went to school in Stellenbosch and played in the world renowned Craven Week at the university. After that he took a gap year and came to England to work as a warehouseman and play for Cheltenham RFC. He started at centre, moved to the wing and then fitted in a No 8.
On his return to South Africa he studied Management Accounting. Once his studies were out the way he got down to a very successful rugby career, initially for the Lions on the domestic front and then at Saracens.
“Being part of the Saracens family was amazing. We had all heard of this family business before in rugby and it can be quite hard to manage, but at Saracens we pulled it off,” he said.
“The wives and girlfriends had coffee mornings and the kids had a crèche at the club. It was about ensuring that the players focused solely on rugby and the Saracens motto was, “We will treat the players unbelievably well and in return they will work unbelievably hard”.
“That is exactly what happened. The hard-working culture that was forged during my time at Saracens helped towards the success. They may not have the depth they used to have, but they still boast quality players.
“The young players now just need to make the step up and get used to playing at the top level. Saracens have always been good with their recruitment and it will just be a question of time before they push through.”
If you ever saw Joubert play you would have sworn he was a Springbok. But that dream somehow never became a reality for him. To those who played alongside him, though, he was as good as anyone in his position.
“Playing for the Springboks would have been the ultimate because as a kid I just wanted to play for the national team. It didn’t happen, but I still loved every minute of my rugby and I’m happy with what I achieved,” he said.
He may not have played for the Boks, but he did score against them and beat them 24-23 when they played the ‘Men in Black’ at Wembley in 2009.
“Now that was special,” he added.