Ospreys wing Hanno Dirksen turns to plumbing studies to fix injury frustration
AS one of the most potent attacking weapons in the regional game, Hanno Dirksen is more used to exploiting leaks than fixing them.
But life as a trainee plumber has proven a welcome distraction for the Ospreys winger as he continues his recovery from a long-term knee injury.
Dirksen has already shown he has the tools for the job in professional rugby, having been one of the stars of the region's Pro12 title-winning campaign last term.
However, the 22-year-old has been out of action since November after undergoing surgery to repair a cartilage problem in his right knee.
His time on the sidelines has been well spent.
And while his colleagues have been working on putting together a defence of their league crown at their Llandarcy base, down the road at Neath Port Talbot College, Dirksen has been getting stuck into his studies.
"It's been frustrating in terms of me not being able to play rugby, obviously, but having a few months away from rugby has allowed me to catch up on my time in college so it hasn't been all bad," he said.
"I'm a young man and a pro rugby player. That's what I'm paid to do and it's what I want to do so anything that stops me doing that isn't nice.
"But it's been a good period for me away from rugby if I'm honest about it.
"When you are playing every week, training all week and then a game on the weekend, travelling a lot as well, it can be difficult to balance everything and to give the time you need to college.
"I haven't been able to do some of the tests like all the other boys in the class so while I'm disappointed at not being able to play rugby I haven't wasted the time since my operation.
"It's a good use of my time which has stopped me getting too frustrated and allowed me to take some steps towards preparing for after my playing days.
"Maybe you don't think about that too much as a young player, but when you are sitting out the rugby with injury it makes you think about the future a bit more. It's only a short career as a rugby player so it's important to have something to fall back on."
Dirksen's strong-running and eye for the try-line has been missed by an Ospreys side who have also had to make do without the fleet-footed Eli Walker since the middle of January.
It has meant Steve Tandy pushing scrum-half Tom Habberfield and the versatile Tom Isaacs into emergency wing cover, while centre Ben John and another converted No. 9 Tom Grabham have also been used.
The good news for the Ospreys and Dirksen is that the recovery is progressing well and after ditching the crutches he is on course to return to full training when pre-season begins in the summer.
"I came off the crutches two weeks ago so it's nice to be walking around properly again and trying to get the muscles back in my leg," he added.
"Hopefully, I can start running again in about three or four weeks.
"I've been watching what I'm eating and the conditioners are setting me a programme to work to that should mean I'm in decent shape. I've just got to get the lungs working again, start running again, which will be a test.
"I've got to know the physios a lot better than maybe I ever wanted to, but they've been very good to me and they certainly help you along the way.
"Hopefully they'll pull me through the next difficult stage of rehab to get me ready for a full pre-season and the yo-yo tests. That'll be fun!"