Fri 21 Jan 2022 | 03:12

The new look: Big Joe becomes Jungle Joe

The new look: Big Joe becomes Jungle Joe
Fri 21 Jan 2022 | 03:12
The new look: Big Joe becomes Jungle Joe
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SPOTLIGHT: Once he was rampaging through opposition defensive lines for a living, but now the only thing former Springbok back row Joe van Niekerk crashes throw is the dense foliage of the Costa Rican jungle.

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Van Niekerk has taken the road less travelled in retirement and now calls an organic coffee farm in the central American country his home.

The 1.93-metre, 41-year-old has shed 15 kilograms of body weight and looks a world away from the 108 kilogrammes forward that starred as a captain of Toulon in the south of France just eight years ago.

He runs the organic coffee farm and a spiritual retreat and says he has found peace after questioning his identity after retiring.

Fans could easily take a glance at the pictures posted on the Rama Organica on Instagram and not recognize ‘Big Joe’ as he was once known.

His transformation is quite dramatic.

Guardian journalist Jonathan Drennan caught up with the former Springbok star, who seems to have found his true calling after years on the road in a campervan after retiring from professional rugby in 2014.

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His physical change has caused a stir back in South Africa.

 

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“South Africa is crazy about their rugby and, even though I’d been out of the game for a while, someone popped up with this image of me where I looked a lot different and had lost around 15 kilograms of weight,” told The Guardian.

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“During those two years, I had experienced so many shifts and really was very happy about where I was.

“People could say whatever they wanted. I didn’t take any of it to heart.

“I just understood that they were curious. Even if they said unkind things, I didn’t mind.

“It was a big shock to some of my closest friends, and even my mum to see me so different physically, but the change has led to me building even closer bonds with them.”

A star of the 2003 World Cup and with 52 Tests to his credit, Van Niekerk revealed that he spent two years in France after retirement where he reinvented himself away from the sport, which was followed by a global campervan trip that would eventually lead him to Costa Rica.

“Ultimately this idea led me to Costa Rica, where we purchased a 25-hectare organic farm.

“We organise different transformational journeys for people and, honestly, I can’t tell you the joy it brings. When you see someone arrive here tired mentally and physically and then leave revitalised, I realise I am in the right place.”

He looks very much the spiritual guru and a man who has found his true calling. More power to him.

Sources: The Guardian & RugbyPass

 

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