Durban - Former Reds lock David McDuling will spend the next 18 months at least with the Sharks, but Durban is not a new and strange environment, having spent many holidays visiting family there.
McDuling earlier this week spoke to Sharks website editor Michael Marnewick, and when probed on why he decided to join the Sharks, he responded: “I was looking for a fresh, new environment to test myself in and I believe I can learn a lot from South African forward play and the challenge of playing in the Currie Cup and Super Rugby for a new team,” he explained.
McDuling also revealed that he had a South African connection.
“When the opportunity to join the Sharks came, I jumped at it. I have ties in Durban through my dad’s side of the family (his paternal grandmother is 95). He was a Natal fan growing up and when the opportunity arose with the Sharks, I felt that it is almost a once-in-a-lifetime chance that I just had to grab.”
His father grew up in Durban, attended Glenwood High School and married an Australian woman.
“I’m the youngest of four kids, all born in Australia but we’ve always come to South Africa and Durban for holidays,” he said. “So when this opportunity arose, I thought to myself, 'it’s meant to be' and I feel really privileged and honoured to try and play for this team.”
His arrival this week has been a whirlwind of meet and greets, medicals and a gym session, along with a first training session he was looking forward to. “I’m also keen to meet all the boys and getting a ball in my hand which will hopefully help a bit with the jetlag, getting some fresh air and sunshine.”
The Reds and Sharks are based in similar cities as far as the weather and coast go, and both enjoy great support. For McDuling, the tough and disappointing Super Rugby campaigns his former and current side both experienced mean the opportunity to right some wrongs.
“I have experience with passionate fan bases and strong unions being very disappointed with results, and all I can say is that I hope I can contribute to building the Sharks back to where they belong and where the fans want them to be.”
Having played with some great players, he hopes to bring some of their strengths to Sharks rugby.
“There were a really special generation of Reds players while I was there, the likes of Quade Cooper and Will Genia, and we liked to play pretty expansively,” he says. “I’m looking forward to, once I get into the rugby here, see what the differences are between how South Africans and Australians approach things.
“If there are little elements of what we do that I can bring in and add to the Sharks way of playing, then I’ll speak up. But for now, I’m just looking forward to the experience and seeing what’s ahead.”
Amongst his strengths are a desire to carry the ball, bring a high work-rate and to do his general job as a lock, and with the stated philosophy this year to play a more exciting, running style of rugby, he feels that suits him perfectly.
“Where they try to play a pretty skilful game in Australia and I grew up with that, so hopefully I can feed that into the Sharks style,” he explains.
“I’m hoping to contribute to a Currie Cup campaign where we can play good rugby, that’s winning rugby as well because that’s the most important thing.”