Ashley Johnson will be staying in the United Kingdom after leaving Wasps despite interest from his homeland of South Africa.
The 34-year-old’s contract was not renewed by the Black and Golds and his departure was confirmed last week after eight years of service and nearly 200 appearances.
It was followed by the bombshell that his fellow countryman Nizaam Carr was also leaving Wasps to join the Vodacom Bulls and Johnson revealed there was an opportunity presented for him to make the same switch.
In an interview with Rapport newspaper, Johnson said he ‘seriously considered’ an offer from Bulls boss Jake White but decided the time wasn’t right for his family to leave England.
He said: “A couple of weeks ago, Jake contacted me – I know him from my school years, of course – and he has great plans for the Bulls.
“I really wanted to [accept the offer]. I even had the motivation to test myself again in Super Rugby. I really thought I could come and contribute, especially to teach the younger guys something.
“But unfortunately, where I was in my career at the time, I was not ready. And more importantly, my family was not. It was a family decision.”
Staying in the United Kingdom
Johnson’s next move has not been publicly announced but during a Facebook Live question and answer session on the Wasps official account he shed some light on the topic.
He said: “I know some of you have been asking if I’m retiring at the end of the season, I will be transitioning, hopefully news of that will be in the next couple of weeks.
“That’ll be in a coaching capacity as well, I’m looking forward to that new challenge in my career, and hopefully I can give back.
“I’ll definitely be staying in the UK. The kids love it, I’ve come to love Coventry so we’ll definitely be staying around in the West Midlands.”
Johnson has been coaching level seven club Nuneaton Old Edwardians this season with former Wasps teammate Jimmy Gopperth. He has also provided assistance at Barkers Butts and Broadstreet. In the past season he has spent time nurturing the next generation of Wasps stars.
He explained: “With so much young talent coming through, getting the opportunity to work with the Wasps Academy and U18s was a real eye-opener and opportunity to learn and grow as a coach.
“I’ll probably try and stay involved with the community and rugby. I’ll definitely be around hopefully in perhaps a coaching and playing capacity but we’ll see what that is.”
Johnson joined the Wasps in 2012 and although he’ll finish just two games short of a double-century of appearances in Black and Gold, he has been a cornerstone of the club’s revival from finishing 11th in the league to playing in the biggest knockout games of the Premiership and Europe. He memorably scored a 75th minute try in the 2016 European Champions Cup semi-final loss to Saracens to spark a late Wasps rally.
He become a fan favourite through these consistently strong performances and his distinctive appearance and hairstyle, sported by thousands of fans in wigs at the sellout game against Leicester in May 2015, and that popularity was reflected in the Q&A which has received more than 26,000 views on Facebook, and attracted over 400 comments.