London - England player Hendre Fourie is being deported after failing to recover from a career-ending injury.
The 33-year-old flanker from Burgersdorp in South Africa, affectionately known as Shrek, was forced to retire prematurely last month, having been unable to overcome the impact of the shoulder damage he sustained while representing England.
What he hadn’t prepared for was the fact that the termination of his Sale contract would lead to the sudden termination of his visa to remain in the UK.
Having won eight caps for his adopted country, and had long spells at Rotherham and Leeds, before his move across the Pennines, Fourie was keen to make use of his teaching degree.
While he, his wife Corlia and English-born son, Hendro, were planning to return to South Africa in the future, he felt that he had a debt to settle first, while waiting to be granted British citizenship.
Fourie wanted to give something back, and to harness the expertise he acquired on his path to Test rugby, to teach English kids about the game.
Fourie said on Monday: ”I wanted to repay this country for everything that I have received here.
”I have done a teaching degree here so I wanted to give my knowledge back - maybe coach kids at schools or something like that. That was the plan anyway.”
As a powerful, abrasive openside who had forced his way into Martin Johnson’s England team before the World Cup, Fourie accepted the physical punishment that went with performing his duties in the national cause.
But he has found it more difficult to accept, when those duties took a toll on his body, the country would so quickly eject him.
“It has come as a bit of a shock,” Fourie said. “At the end of November, the UK Border Agency did a review of Sale’s foreign players and saw that my contract was coming to an end.”
”They said that my visa would be cancelled. I was told that it was 60 days from when the visa was cancelled to when I have to go, so I have to leave in a few weeks.
”What angers me is the way we have been treated - it has been a short, sharp ‘get-out’ order.
”If I had never played for England, it wouldn’t be an issue, but I put my body on the line for this country.
"I wasn’t wanting any reward, but it would have been nice to be marked down as a British citizen.”
He said he wasn’t able to claim any benefits in the UK, saying: “I’ve always paid my taxes, have represented England, but I have to leave while you hear they protect the rights of terrorists.”
Fourie is making preparations to return home. He is trying to sort out a multitude of logistical issues that have been created by the unforeseen upheaval.
”I want to get out before I over-stay, because I don’t want to taint my name here,” Fourie added.
”If I overstayed my visa, then there would always be a red flag against my name, which would make it difficult to come here again.”
"Everything is sorted out for myself, my wife and our son to go back to South Africa. That can’t be changed now - we have set the wheels in motion.
"We have to finish packing and sort out bank accounts and direct debits, stuff like that. I haven’t even bought our plane tickets yet, so I’d better do that, too!
"Our stuff is almost ready to be shipped out. For the foreseeable future, we’ll be living with my in-laws or parents in Bloemfontein.
"I own a place in Leeds I rent out. I will keep that on until house prices get better, then sell it."
While Fourie is busy organising the big move, news of his plight has provoked a furious reaction. By Monday ight, a social media campaign to 'Save Shrek’ was in full swing.
Fourie added: "I’ve had a lot of supportive tweets from people and a few phone calls too.
"I didn’t think I had so much support! I didn’t know it was going to turn into such a big issue."
It sure is in the eyes of the Rugby Players’ Association, whose chief executive, Damian Hopley, said: "This is a terrible scenario and it is up to all of us, particularly the RFU as guardians of the game, to ensure we don’t have a situation like this ever again.
"For someone who has bled for the national shirt to be catapulted out post-haste is shocking. It is an extraordinary way to reward someone who has represented England.
"Hendre has come to terms with the situation, but it just doesn’t seem right. He has been a huge contributor to English rugby and he is being slung out. We have to tighten up on all the regulatory issues, to avoid a repeat of this." - Daily Mail