In the attritional world of professional rugby, players rarely get the opportunity to hang up their boots on their own terms.
Whether it is injury, form or a combination of the two, some of the game’s best names have seen their careers end without the adulation they would have perhaps deserved.
Fortunately for Portuguese stalwart Mike Tadjer, this was not the case as the 34-year-old hooker bowed out from the international stage.
Making his international debut in 2011, Tadjer has been one of rugby’s great journeymen.
Playing for nine professional clubs in the French leagues since 2007, the French-born hooker has gathered in-depth knowledge of what it takes to succeed at the top level.
Thus, his inclusion in the Portuguese squad for the 2023 Rugby World Cup was no surprise.
What was perhaps a surprise was the immensely positive brand of attacking rugby that the Tier two side brought to the competition.
Recording a remarkable draw against a highly favoured Georgian team, Portugal ticked off a first-ever positive result at the tournament.
Yet, having been just one kick away from victory, one felt that Portugal deserved more for the endeavour they had shown.
Few would have suspected what was in store as they took to the pitch on Sunday evening against a quarterfinal-bound Fijian team in Toulouse.
Racing out to an early lead, Os Lobos laid the foundation for what would be the biggest result in their history.
Unfortunately for them, as they have shown all tournament, Fiji is not a team that rolls over and quits.
Regaining the lead and building up to a buffer of six points with less than five minutes to play, the Fijians looked to have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
The South Pacific Islanders perhaps didn’t account for the spirit in the Portuguese side, who had one last roll of the dice to pull off the upset.
What followed was a remarkable turnaround as the Portuguese wingers Raffaele Storti and Rodrigo Marta combined to finish off a sublime try.
This score would set up a match-winning conversion for scrumhalf Samuel Marques. The veteran would duly knock over to give the Portuguese their first win of the tournament.
Holding his two children, Tadjer spoke of his pride for what his team had achieved throughout the tournament.
“I can die tomorrow; it would be an awesome day for me.
“I will retire after the World Cup, so to finish like that is unbelievable for me.”
Speaking on how special his teammates are, many of whom play amateur rugby in Portugal, the hooker said,
“It’s our strength. Some (are) amateur in Portugal, some (are) professional in France. It is over four years we built this, and we are happy today to repay ourselves.”
Shifting his focus to the future of Rugby in Portugal, he was positive as to which direction the sport was going.
“Yes, I hope the future will be good for us because we deserve it. We need to continue to work in a good way for the next generation.” He concluded with a smile.