Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town - Another
day in South African rugby, another “defection” to northern climes.
that barrelling Springbok prop Coenie Oosthuizen will join a different Sharks
outfit after Super Rugby 2019 - English Premiership club Sale - just means that
further havoc is wreaked with local franchises’ increasingly fruitless quest to
build continuity and an associated, genuine title push in the SANZAAR
is 30, so just about in a front-ranker’s prime (they say props, in particular,
get better with age) and gradually getting to grips in a meaningful way with
his switch to tighthead, for past neck injury-related reasons, from the other
side of the scrum.
He is an
ideal element, really, in the Sharks’ still unashamedly physical,
uncompromising style of rugby … though we will soon have to say “was” as he
leaves for a lucrative three-year deal and a pretty good chance his southern
hemisphere professional days are over, despite ongoing eligibility for the
tackler and ball-carrier conspicuously swells Sale’s reputation for becoming
another “Little South Africa”, if you like, on the other side of the Equator.
has been the exodus of high-quality SA players in recent seasons - a phenomenon
inevitably gathering further steam as we near the end of another World Cup
four-yearly cycle - that several European clubs, at varying times, have been
marked by robust numbers of South Africans on their books, including Toulon and
Montpellier in France and admirably consistent English powerhouse Saracens.
too, Japanese clubs are recruiting players from our shores who commit
themselves fully to employment in the Far East and do not surface back home any
more for Super Rugby or Currie Cup needs.
migration pattern is hardly helped by successful South African coaching
masterminds like Jake White, Heyneke Meyer and Johan Ackermann now also earning
their salaries in foreign currency and hardly being shy to lure players (either
seasoned or sometimes more rookie-like) they know from their local tenures to
say that Sale, in England’s north-west, has simply become the latest “SA
ghetto”, guaranteeing that various players on their books are able to deal with
any homesickness issues by getting together around a braai whenever possible and
in several cases conversing agreeably in Afrikaans either within or outside
will boast, from next northern season, all of these well-known South African
names on their books, including some who are already established: Oosthuizen, Lood
de Jager, Akker van der Merwe, Robert du Preez, Faf de Klerk, Jono Ross ... as
well as the lingering likelihood that brawny young blindside flanker Jean-Luc
du Preez leaves another rather gaping, hazardous vacancy in the locally-based
Sharks set-up from 2020 onward.
It is hardly
a secret that a further volley of defections, from nationwide in SA Super Rugby
rugby circles, is anticipated over the next few weeks and months.
What to do
about it, of course, is truly a taxing, million-dollar (rather than rand,
maybe?) question, such is the deepening vulnerability and powerlessness in many
senses of South Africa’s currency.
It should be
virtually beyond dispute that the seemingly endless “drip, drip” - and almost
more of a stream now - of player departures to the north is a massive factor
in explaining why the country has failed to land the Super Rugby title ever
since the Bulls, of what is now genuinely a bygone era, did it three times in
four years up to and including 2010.
just no reasonable opportunity for hard-pressed modern SA head coaches in the
competition, whatever their strengths or shortcomings in other areas, to build
the kind of settled kernel of a squad to challenge with suitable mettle for the
To help bear
out that point, I did a little exercise after completion of round 13 of Super
Rugby at the weekend, examining the extent to which the four current, all depressingly
inconsistent locally-based franchises (Sharks, Bulls, Lions, Stormers) have
changed in squad make-up over the course of just three years.
equivalent round 13 of 2016, the Lions whipped the Jaguares 52-24 at Emirates
Airline Park, the Sharks even more clinically demolished the Kings 53-0 at
Kings Park, and the Bulls edged a tight derby against the Stormers at Loftus
Here is a
list of the players from that quartet of matchday squads (starters and
reserves) no longer available for the particular outfit concerned –
predominantly because of departures for overseas, though also including, in
fairness, internal switches and some retirements.
Lions: Jaco van der Walt, Faf de Klerk,
Jaco Kriel, Franco Mostert, Julian Redelinghuys, Akker van der Merwe, Corne
Fourie, Jacques van Rooyen, Ruan Ackermann, Warwick Tecklenburg, Rohan Janse
Sharks: Willie le Roux, JP Pietersen, Paul
Jordaan, Pat Lambie, Michael Claassens, Keegan Daniel, Etienne Oosthuizen,
Lourens Adriaanse, Dale Chadwick, Kyle Cooper, Stefan Ungerer, Garth April,
Bulls: Adriaan Strauss, Marcel van der
Merwe, Lappies Labuschagne, Arno Botha, Piet van Zyl, Francois Brummer, Jan
Serfontein, SP Marais, Pierre Schoeman, Grant Hattingh, Deon Stegmann, Rudy
Paige, Tian Schoeman, Dries Swanepoel.
Stormers: Oliver Kebble, Nizaam Carr, Schalk
Burger, Nic Groom, Leolin Zas, Johnny Kotze, Kobus van Wyk, Cheslin Kolbe,
Vincent Koch, Rynhardt Elstadt, Louis Schreuder, Brandon Thomson, Huw Jones.
clearly indicates that for every period of patient “building” by the SA
franchises, an almost inevitable, near-annual “rebuild” is then required - badly
negating any progress toward achieving a settled crew more capable than we are
seeing at present of being worthy threats to the clearly superior likes of the
Crusaders and Hurricanes as trophy-chasers.
Do you see
any end in sight to the predicament?
I don’t: not
when announcements like the Coenie Oosthuizen one occur with such alarming
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