CAPE TOWN - When someone has seen and done it all in rugby, a serious knee injury such as a torn anterior cruciate ligament would normally push them to call it a day.
But Gio Aplon isn’t just any rugby player. The man from Hawston, who used to thrill the crowds at Newlands for Western Province, the Stormers and the Springboks, still has enough energy for one last hurrah.
Having been sidelined for seven months after a promising start to his Bulls tenure, Aplon returned to action in a 20-minute cameo off the bench against the Sharks last week.
The 38-year-old utility back had a couple of carries, and hunted down Sharks No 8 Phepsi Buthelezi from behind in a memorable cover tackle, but will hope to get more game time in tomorrow’s Rainbow Cup final against Benetton in Treviso, Italy (6.15pm kick-off).
“There are personal and team goals, but from a personal point of view, it is a bit unique, as well as nervy to get back out there. Last week I played about 20 minutes off the bench, and it was just nice to be able to play and give back,” Aplon said from Italy.
“I’ve been in the mix, and that’s why the little bit of nerves is there, because I’ve played (only 20 minutes).
“But hopefully I can tap into the experience of having played a lot of games before, and tap into the memory bank of what to expect.
“Two or three minutes before the game, there are still those butterflies in the stomach. But hopefully that’s a good thing.”
Aplon joked that some of his Bulls teammates call him ‘Oom’, which he said “is a little embarrassing”.
He is yet to decide when he will hang up his boots – “I am just 20 minutes into my new career, so I have a bit of time to decide” – with the hope of another Currie Cup campaign at least.
But for now, there’s another trophy up for grabs for the Bulls tomorrow, and he has a clever idea to get some inside information on the Italian club.
“I brought a small package for Dewies (Benetton captain and former Stormers scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage) from his in-laws and family, so I must still give it to him. But with that, I’m going to ask him to give me a few secrets before I hand over the package, which has biltong, sweets and other things in it,” Aplon quipped.
“I know he will want to get it in his hands, but I will get the secrets from him before I hand it over – I will come with a plan …
“Dewies has done well since he arrived in Italy. He leads the team well, and there are a number of South Africans and a few New Zealanders in their team.
“Their position on the log shows that they are a good team, so I hope I get a few secrets from him, and then I can share them with the team.”