Cape Town - Joe van Niekerk has a strong case for being one of the most underrated Springboks of all time.
Van Niekerk, now 38, starred for the South Africa Schools, Under-19 and Under-21 sides - captaining at all three levels.
He received the rare honour of being called up to the Springboks directly from the U21 side in 2001, in spite of never having played a game in either the Currie Cup or Super 12 as it was at the time.
He would go on to play for the Boks no fewer than 52 times at either flank or No 8, scoring 10 tries in the process, but his name is seldom mentioned among the great loose forwards of recent times.
In 2002, he was voted the South African Player of the Year.
In 2008 Van Niekerk packed his bags and headed for Toulon in France where he became an instant club legend, playing - and captaining the side - in 122 matches.
Then he disappeared off the radar.
Over the weekend Toulon's non-official fan club posted a picture of another former Toulon player Pierrick Gunther who caught up with Van Niekerk, who now manages his psychological fitness centre for burn victims in Costa Rica.
Van Niekerk is the chap on the right...
On a retrouvé Captain Joe !!! ????? L'ancien Toulonnais Pierrick Gunther a tenté de retrouver Joe Van Niekerk, coupé du monde depuis un petit moment ! Et chose faite puisqu'il a réussi à entrer en contact afin de lui rendre visite et prendre des nouvelles de notre LÉGENDE ! Âgé de 38 ans, il est toujours gérant de son centre de remise en forme psychologique pour les victimes de burn-out au Costa Rica ! Voilà de bonnes nouvelles après son départ qui nous a tous attristé et rendu nostalgique ! Encore UN ÉNORME MERCI Capitaine pour tout ??????? Et on espère à bientôt ! ???