Ex-Springbok Ashley Johnson joins English third-tier rugby club as player-coach

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Ashley Johnson (right) in action for Wasps against Harlequins in an English Premiership match. COURTESY: Images/Andrew Boyers

Former South African international Ashley Johnson signed for English third division outfit Birmingham Moseley as a player-coach from Premiership Rugby side Wasps.

Johnson, one of the most popular figures in Wasps’ recent history, left the club in June after eight years. He made 198 appearances for the Coventry-based side and scored 42 tries.

Wasps coach Lee Blackett paid tribute to Johnson, whom he described as “one of the best signings in Wasps history”.

“He has become a fan favourite for several reasons, whether it’s his barnstorming carries, massive gain line stopping tackles or for being a very humble character. Ash will be massively missed both on and off the field. He has been the ultimate team man in everything he has done, and we wish him, Chrizaan and the boys all the very best for the future.”

Before joining Wasps, he spent six years in Bloemfontein plating for the Cheetahs in both the Currie Cup (63 appearances) and Super Rugby (35 appearances). Johnson also won three caps for the Springboks.

The 34-year-old told the Don’t Give A Ruck podcast that the job came up as “pure luck” after he and his family decided to stay a little bit longer in the West Midlands rather than going to South Africa. He said that a chance meeting came about with someone who knew he still wanted to play a bit but was also interested in a coaching role.

“What I have seen and what I know about the club is it is an amazing club. Looking forward to working with some great talent,” Johnson said.

Johnson admitted that a lot of people were surprised at his decision which “felt like two steps back” having played in the Premiership, but he said that it was a great opportunity for him and that he was not “too big for the game”.

“It (coaching) is definitely something I am going to give a crack. I do not know what the future might hold. I am going to approach coaching the same as I am going approach my professional rugby career; (which) is a very small percentage of them will make it eventually,” Johnson said.

Director of Rugby Adam Balding said that he was delighted that the club was able to attract someone with the values of Johnson.

“He is a very humble guy and his presence around the club will be well received. I look forward to welcoming him and witnessing his skills both on and off the pitch.”

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