Oupa Mohoje: I thought I’d have to hang up the boots
That is how Cheetahs and Springbok loose forward Oupa Mohoje reacted when asked if he was now finally over the knee injury that kept him sidelined for nearly two years.
Mohoje hasn’t played a minute of rugby since tearing his ACL in his knee in September 2018. It was in that season’s opening Pro14 match against Munster in Ireland.
Having sat out the whole of 2019, he was due to return early this year, but a setback prevented him from playing at all - until now.
But then Covid-19 hit the world and forced all sport to be suspended, leaving Mohoje frustrated once again. He has, however, recovered from his knee problem and is fit to play once more.
“Look, it was hugely frustrating and there were times when I thought I’d have to hang up the boots. I just couldn’t get over the injury,” said Mohoje yesterday, a day after it was announced he had extended his contract with the Cheetahs until May next year.
“Everyone knows that an ACL injury is anything between nine and 12 months. Nine months came and I wasn’t better; 12 months came and I wasn’t better. It was bad ... I thought I’d never play again, that I’d never heal.
“At that stage you start asking all sorts of questions.”
The good news, though, is that the former South Africa A captain and 19-cap Springbok has recovered and will play again. And he believes his best years are still ahead.
“I think I’ve got a good five years left in me; maybe my best years are still to come,” said the 29-year-old who at one stage was talked about as a potential future Bok captain.
“I’ve still got a lot of goals I want to achieve and now I can at least move forward in the direction I should be going.”
Mohoje said the Cheetahs had been brilliant in managing his injury over the last 18 months and the new contract had given him peace in these tough and trying times.
“You don’t think about injuries and the impact they have until it happens. It’s been nearly two years without any rugby. It’s been tough,” he said.
“The Cheetahs, though, have been brilliant. They’ve backed me and have now given me security and comfort for another year. I’m so grateful for that. If you organised a match for tomorrow, I’d play. I’m ready.”
Mohoje said the suspension of rugby in March and not knowing when the sport would start again in this country was “tough” but added he was hopeful of a return to action soon.
“It’s been tough, staying at home and not being allowed out. I’m a sociable guy who enjoys people and the company of others. The first 21 days (of lockdown) were almost fun; we cooked and exercised, and did all sorts of different and unusual things, but then it got longer and longer, and it’s now become a bit frustrating.
“I think a lot of guys have perhaps become demotivated, but it looks like we’ll at least be able to train in small groups again from Wednesday. Let’s hope so, and let’s hope we can play again soon. It’s not only the players who need a boost but the supporters, too.”