16 December 2004
Newcastle Falcons have announced that tight head prop Marius Hurter will return to his homeland of South Africa before the new year, having signed a deal to play Super 12 with the Cats and then Currie Cup with the Lions.
The popular 34-year-old also needs to be in South Africa for the new year to further his studies in law, having passed his exams this summer in the UK, while he is also delighted to be expecting the birth of his first child with wife Hannatjie in around seven months time.
Having signed for the Falcons in 1998, Hurter went on to play 109 Zurich Premiership games for the club, and was instrumental in the Powergen Cup wins of 2001 and 2004, as well as the development of props such as Micky Ward, Ian Peel and James Isaacson.
He will be in contention for the Falcons' next two games against Saracens and Leeds, before flying back home on December 30.
Capped 13 times by South Africa, Hurter was a member of the Springbok squad which won the 1995 World Cup, making him one of three World Cup winners currently at the club, alongside Jonny Wilkinson and Matthew Burke.
Newcastle Falcons director of rugby, Rob Andrew, said: "Losing Marius is a blow to us after all the great times we have had with him here, but at this point in time we recognise that he has a new life to go to in South Africa with his law career, his new baby and his Super 12 rugby.
"We obviously wish Marius and his family all the best for their future, and I just hope that South Africa is ready for a guy who we would certainly class as a fully fledged Geordie.
"His shoes will be big ones to fill, but we are looking at replacements as we try and build on all the good work that Marius has done for us, not only with his own play but with his help for all of the younger props at the club."
An emotional Hurter said: "I would like to say a massive thanks to the Newcastle Falcons supporters, players, coaches and everyone who works at the club. I've had an amazing time here and I'll never forget you all."
Speaking on his time at the club, from the early days, he said: "I can remember when I decided to sign for the Falcons, the guys in South Africa were saying that it was all coal mines and pit heaps. I tried to do some research but all I could find was a picture of Grey's Monument on the internet, so it was a leap into the dark, and I must thank my wife Hannatjie for all her support in being brave enough to come over here with me.
"I remember stepping off the plane on November 5, 1998, and our prop George Graham meeting me on the back field at Kingston Park. It was a proper north east windswept morning, and I was shivering with the cold while he was there in a shirt saying �what do you mean? This is a nice day'.
"The fans here have been awesome - really something special. I'm glad I ended up in Newcastle and nowhere else in the UK, because everyone has made me and my wife so welcome.
"It's been a great six years, but the plan was always to go back. Newcastle is a fantastic city with wonderful people, but my heart still lies in South Africa."
On the rugby front, Hurter believes there is still life in the old dog yet, saying: "I decided to sign this contract with the Cats and the Lions while I still can, because I feel I owe something to South African rugby. I'll give it one more year, just to say thank you to South Africa, and I still think I have something to offer."
Revealing the north east traits he will take with him to the Johannesburg-based team, he said: "They won't have a clue what I'm talking about when I start training with the Cats and I'm using Geordie phrases.
"Then if they ask me to take the warm ups they'll all be wondering what on earth I'm doing if I do one of Blackie's sessions, where they all have to pretend to run like their favourite animal and do the sound effects at the same time."
With a new baby on the way, Hurter said: "That was a big part of the decision, and it's a new chapter in our lives.
"Hannatjie is due to give birth around July time. We don't know if it's a boy or a girl yet, but if it's a boy then it's definitely another Springbok!"
As he prepares for his law career, he said: "I'm doing articles this year while I play rugby, and that played a role in the timing of me going back, because I have to do one calendar year of qualification in South Africa for my degree.
"Once I'm there and I'm qualified I can write a conversion course meaning I can also practice over here in the UK, which I'm dead keen on doing, so you might not have seen the last of me yet."
Hurter has witnessed at first hand the continual evolution at the Falcons, and summed it up by saying: "The club has developed a huge amount, and the players have changed, but the spirit has remained the same throughout, with everyone getting on well and helping the new guys to settle in. Lots of people have come and gone, but the club is still one big family.
"The supporters are really friendly people, sticking behind the team, and they have great facilities now so they should be proud of what has been created here.
"It's a shame that there are no more home games between now and when I leave, but I think everyone knows how much the fans mean to me, and I'll still keep a close eye on how they are getting on."
As for the future of the Falcons front row contingent after Hurter's imminent departure, he said: "People like Micky Ward sum up what the club is all about, and if you could personify Newcastle Falcons, then Micky is what you would get.
"Along with Ian Peel, James Isaacson and younger guys like Dave Wilson the club has a great foundation in the propping department, and they all fit in well with each other. They're all extremely hard workers and great characters, and I believe the club is in good hands with them."