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How Ulster's Louis Ludik is planning to stay in Northern Ireland after rugby retirement


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Real ambition: Louis Ludik wants to secure a new Ulster deal

Real ambition: Louis Ludik wants to secure a new Ulster deal

�INPHO/James Crombie

Real ambition: Louis Ludik wants to secure a new Ulster deal

At some point in every rugby player's career, they have to face up to the inevitability of what comes at the end: retirement.

For some, it comes unexpectedly early, usually enforced through injury. For others, they are somewhat luckier and can go out on their own terms. For all, however, they are faced with questions once they hang up the boots - what comes next? How will they continue to finance their lives for themselves and their families?

It's something that perhaps isn't talked about as much as it should be, but it is a very prevalent issue for some players. Only so many get the opportunity to go into coaching or the media, while the rest have to find some other way to create income.

In Louis Ludik's case, he's already well along the path of having something to fall back on. Last week, the Ulster ace announced that his Hellbent brand of meats, launched in conjunction with wife Chamé and former team-mate Schalk van der Merwe, will be stocked in Spar and Eurospar stores across Northern Ireland, a massive step for the South African's side-business.

And with he and his family thinking about the future, which they are hoping will be in Northern Ireland, Ludik is taking the smart steps to sort out what comes next now before he's left in the void after his playing days have ended.

"I've been playing rugby for 14 years, and hopefully for another year or two extra, but you never know when your career is going to end. Just walking away and then trying to get a job or trying to open up a business when you have no income would be very stressful," explained Ludik.

"The main thing is to try and fill that gap as quickly as possible so that when you do retire, your next career transition is smooth and there won't be a massive gap and my family won't be under pressure.

"We see ourselves living here after rugby, so that's why we're trying to build a life here after rugby. If we were planning to head back to South Africa then there's no way I would be trying to set up this new business.

"My family are happy, so it's to try and think ahead so that it's not a surprise when I do get that tap on my shoulder."

This isn't an admission from Ludik that his career is coming to an end, even though he is out of contract at the end of the season. Rather, the 33-year-old is hopeful that there will be an offer from Ulster to continue playing beyond this campaign.

So far he's proving that he's worth it, having played 11 games this season and performed at his usual high standard in what is a competitive position in the Ulster squad. The key for the South African is ensuring that his levels aren't compromised by Hellbent, with Ludik admitting that the club are happy with him having the company on the side as long as he doesn't take his eye off the ball in training.

"(Ulster) would just expect me to perform. They know we've got this on the side and we're busy with this," said Ludik.

"My No.1 focus is still on the rugby, and that won't change. Fortunately I've got Schalk and my wife, who are full-time with the business and run it day-to-day, and when I can help, I do. It's not all up to me fortunately, so my focus can still be on rugby.

"I still want to play as long as I can, but it's just to have that in the bag and keep pushing on that side. For me, as long as Ulster are happy it doesn't impact my training, my recovery or my performance, then everything is okay. Hopefully I've shown I can balance the two."

Hellbent's full range of products is now available in all 27 Spar and Eurospar stores across Northern Ireland. The products are made of Northern Irish meat infused with South African spices and include coiled sausages called 'boerewors', burgers and meatballs.

Belfast Telegraph