Sharks get out the cheque book - AGAIN!
Cape Town - Should Waratahs loose forward Jacques Potgieter's shock signing by the Sharks really be seen as a positive move by the under-siege franchise?
The Sharks on Wednesday announced they had signed the three-Test Springbok on a two-year deal. Potgieter, 29, will join the 11th-placed Sharks in early 2016 as they prepare for next year's expanded Super Rugby tournament.
Ironically, the announcement came mere hours after CEO John Smit wrote an open letter to Sharks fans, saying the union would be implementing changes to make the fans proud of their team once again.
Among those changes Smit spoke about in his letter was to nurture home grown talent.
He wrote: "Critically, I have learnt and continue to learn from both our successes and failures. Having addressed the commercial issues, full focus has been given to the coaching and player structures. We want the Sharks to be competitive at Under-19 and Under-21 levels. To this end, we needed to retain our home grown talent. You would have noticed the improved relationship between The Sharks and our schools that has resulted in them playing curtain-raisers at the Stadium. In time we will be rolling out our strategic plans around our procurement initiatives and our vision on creating a young pipeline of talent that will secure our future for years to come. Adversity is often the catalyst for creative thinking and I believe we have learnt a considerable amount over this period, which will stand us in good stead in the years to come.”
Sadly, the Sharks have failed horribly over the years when it comes to nurturing home grown talent, with their continued purge of resources of their neighbouring province - read Free State - in particular well documented.
There have also been recent signings of Matt Stevens, Mouritz Botha and Jack Wilson (all Saracens), "Giant" Mtyanda and Renaldo Bothma (both Pumas) and Marco Wentzel (Wasps).
The signing of players like Stevens, Botha and Wilson does nothing to help grow the pool of potential Springboks candidates as none of the trio are eligible to represent the national team. They simply deny a future Green and Gold legend an opportunity.
It's hard to believe that unheralded Jack Wilson could possibly have been recruited to mentor the current crop of Sharks wings, and it's equally impossible to see Stevens having any knowledge to impart on veterans Jannie du Plessis and "Beast" Mtawarira.
The KwaZulu-Natal region boasts several schools of high quality and fame, including Michaelhouse, Hilton College, Kearsney College among others. It simply has to be frustrating for First XV players at those schools, who no doubt dream of going on to represent their beloved Sharks, to see outsiders/foreigners recruited at will.
Nevertheless, it was good to see Smit acknowledge that more is needed to be done to retain home ground talent, and the Sharks have done well with their academy over the years - which has in part has served as a replacement for the lack of a team competing in the Varsity Cup.
Potgieter, who was fined A$10 000 for using homophobic slurs in a spiteful Waratahs v Brumbies derby earlier this season, is going back to his roots where he played for the Natal Under-20 and Vodacom Cup teams between 2007-2009 after having been educated in the Eastern Province.
Potgieter will be competing for a starting spot with Willem Alberts, Ryan Kankowski, Marcell Coetzee, Etienne Oosthuizen, Jean Deysel and Tera Mtembu.
Was another big-name signing really the way to go? Could that money not perhaps have been ploughed into the development of local young talent?
It’s a lesson that appears not to have been learnt to a full extent in Durban - to date at least.
Let’s hope Smit can back up his words and give Sharks fans a team they can rightly feel proud of in future.