Former Springbok forward AJ Venter has opened up on mental issues he suffered after retiring from rugby.
Venter, now 46, played 25 Tests for the Springboks as a loose forward and lock between 2000 and 2006.
In an exclusive interview with Sport24, Venter revealed: "A few years after rugby, I suffered from anxiety and depression and actually ended up having a nervous breakdown at one stage. There are many reasons for it and the key is to identify the issues and fix them if you can. If you allow it to, anxiety and fear can cloud everything and you start to neglect the small things you should be grateful for in life."
Venter, who played provincially for Free State, Golden Lions, Sharks and Western Province, said he eventually became a better person after overcoming his issues.
"It was obviously a really tough time for me but I came out of it successfully and didn’t make use of any medicine. With hard work and surrounding myself with the right people I got through that difficult patch fabulously. I don't want that tough time over again but I look back at it now with absolute gratitude purely because in times of hardship that is when we grow as humans.
"When everything is hunky dory we tend to stagnate but when we are really under pressure and stress, we dig deep and show that we are resilient. I came out the other side as a much better man and everything improved in my life."
- Compiled by Sport24 staff