As he steps up his rehab from knee surgery at the tail end of last year, Hanno Dirksen has revealed that he's been using his time away from the action to enhance his post-playing career options.
Dirksen, who celebrated his 22nd birthday earlier this week, has been sidelined since November after undergoing an operation to repair a cartilage problem in his right knee. With a pre-season return on the cards, the South African born wing has made the most of his lay-off, dedicating time to his studies as he works towards qualifying as a plumber at Neath Port Talbot College.
The time out has allowed him to catch-up on his coursework and to sit a number of tests, all of which has helped him turn a difficult time into a positive one.
“It’s been frustrating in terms of me not being able to play rugby, obviously” he said.
“I’m a young man and a pro rugby player. That’s what I’m paid to do and it’s what I want to do so anything that stops me doing that isn’t nice.
“It’s been a good period for me away from rugby though if I’m honest about it. I’m in college, doing my trade as a plumber, and having a few months away from rugby has allowed me to catch up on that so it hasn’t been all bad. Definitely not.
“When you are playing every week, training all week and then a game on the weekend, travelling a lot as well, it can be difficult to balance everything off and to give the time you need to college. I haven’t been able to do some of the tests like all the other boys in the class so while I’m disappointed at not being able to play rugby I haven’t wasted the time since my operation.
“I’ve done six tests in the last three months and I’m almost where I should be with the rest of the class now. I’m just about back on schedule now, there are two tests left. I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s a good use of my time which has stopped me getting too frustrated and allowed me take some steps towards preparing for after my playing days.
“Maybe you don’t think about that too much as a young player but when you are sitting out the rugby with injury it makes you think about the future a bit more. I’ve been committed to this course for some time and the up side to a long lay-off, if there is one, is that it’s allowed me to catch up properly on my course. It’s only a short career as a rugby player so it’s important to have something to fall back on.”
Dirksen was one of the breakthrough players of 2011/12, finishing the season as top try scorer at the Ospreys and winning the RaboDirect PRO12 try of the year award for a stunning effort against Edinburgh. The early stages of the current campaign saw him continue in a similar fashion, with four tries ion 10 games before an ongoing knee problem meant he had to undergo surgery, ruling him out until pre-season.
Having recently come off crutches, Dirksen is entering the next stage of his rehab as he targets a return to fitness in time for a full pre-season.
“I’m not feeling too bad now to be honest” he added.
“I came off the crutches two weeks ago so it’s nice to be walking around properly again and trying to get the muscles back in my leg.
“Hopefully I can start running again in about three or four weeks and I’m excited about that prospect. It’s been a long time.
“I’ve been watching what I’m eating so I shouldn’t be in too bad shape and the conditioners are setting me a programme to work to that should mean I’m in decent shape. I’ve just got to get the lungs working again, start running again, which will be a test.
“I haven’t run, done anything like that, since November, so it will be like learning something new but it won’t be all bad. I’m sure I’ll enjoy running again.
“I’ve got to know the physios a lot better than maybe I ever wanted to, but they’ve been very good to me and they certainly help you along the way. They know what they are doing. I put my trust in them entirely, not just as someone to talk to during the day, and hopefully they’ll pull me through the next difficult stage of rehab to get me ready for a full pre-season and the yo-yo tests. That’ll be fun!”