His rugby career might have come to an end recently, but new opportunities await former Maties Rugby captain Beyers de Villiers who graduated with a Postgraduate Diploma in Project Management (cum laude) on Thursday evening.
De Villiers, who represented Maties and WP, believes he was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to play the sport he loves while earning his degrees.
He would have loved to end his career on his own terms, but to take chances with his health was not an option.
De Villiers recently called halt on his career after suffering concussion in the game against UP-Tuks – Maties' first game of the 2017 Varsity Cup season. Specialists advised him not to play again.
"I've suffered concussion numerous times since my school rugby days and the side-effects were becoming worse. I had headaches, struggled with concentration and experienced incidents of amnesia. Before this year's Varsity Cup I went back to the specialists and they told me that if I suffer concussion again they won't clear me to play. In the game against Tuks the blow against my head was so hard I lost consciousness for a few moments. And I knew ... It had become too dangerous to play," said De Villiers.
"It was a difficult, but also an easy decision to stop playing. In fact, the injury made the decision for me. The doctor gave me no choice but to stop playing. There was no other option for me. So in that sense, it was easy. The hard part is that I am missing out on my last year of rugby. And that it happened at the beginning of the season. I would have loved to play this year."
But to gamble with his health, wasn't worth the risk, said De Villiers. "Any other injury – shoulder, leg, knee, hand – you can recover from. With good rehabilitation and treatment you can play. But concussion is something else..."
De Villiers made his debut for Maties in 2011 and after six seasons he will miss the off-the-field memories the most.
"The culture, the feeling of being part of a family and the lessons I have learned. These are the highlights. I have made many friends and built relationships."
During his time at Maties De Villiers played under Chean Roux, Chris Rossouw and Hawies Fourie.
"Maties Rugby is definitely on the right track. Hawies' approach is one of establishing structures for support and a professional culture. Players receive support so that they can study, go to the gym, etc. We will soon be where we should be like those universities that are linked to a union."
De Villiers' advice to other players is to have complete concussion tests done at the beginning of each season.
"Find out what your baseline is. If you get a few knocks, go for tests again. Be honest with yourself about the symptoms. You'll know if it gets worse; when your memory or concentration deteriorate. Do not throw away your life because you want to play rugby for one more year."