Former England and British Lion Matt Stevens completed a highly successful 13 year chapter of his career in disappointing fashion on Saturday when Saracens were stunned in the dying moments of the Aviva Premiership final by the Northampton Saints.
Stevens is set to return to his home town of Durban, where he will play out the remainder of his career with the Super Rugby league leaders the Sharks.
There is little doubt that despite a distinguished international and club career in the northern hemisphere over the last 13 years he will depart British shores with a huge sense of disappointment after Saracens season spectacularly imploded over the last two weeks.
Stevens spoke exclusively with GiveMeSport a few weeks back at a time that Saracens were in line for a rare European and domestic double, however after being outplayed by Toulon in the final of the Heineken Cup and then edged by Northampton to the Premiership title, the north London club has no silverware to show from what had been a superb season until the final two weeks.
As the disappointment lifts, Stevens will remember a career in the northern hemisphere fondly and one that was hugely successful.
The big burly prop enjoyed a 12 year career with Bath and Saracens which led to 44 England caps between 2004 and 2012 and also involved two British Lions tours in 2005 and 2013, both to Australia.
The journey began when he decided to continue his studies in the UK despite representing South African rugby at junior level. Stevens made the move and it wasn't long before he was moving his way up at the Bath academy, eventually making his senior debut in 2002.
Stevens first pulled on an England jersey at Twickenham in 2003 against a New Zealand Barbarians team.
He reflected exclusively to GiveMeSport on what a proud moment it was, especially considering he was playing with most of the team that had just won the 2003 world cup, "Incredibly special moment for any international sportsman in any sport to represent their country for the first time."
Stevens was also part of the England team that played in the 2007 world cup in France.
After suffering a heavy opening 36-0 loss to eventual winners South Africa, Stevens told GiveMeSport that the senior players rallied the squad in the face of serious media criticism, to lead the side all the way to the final.
Stevens recalled, "Beating Australia in Marseille was one of the most incredible games I ever played in and losing to South Africa in the final was gut wrenching at the time but on form South Africa deserved to win."
Stevens begins a new life with the Sharks under his old junior rugby coach Jake White and is relishing the challenge, "I am very excited about the Sharks," Stevens said.
"I am a little nervous and it is like starting life all over again. I am not going down there to retire, I am going down there to finish my career on a massive high."
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