Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town - Schalk
Brits may well have been at least partly responsible, in all the right ways,
for the growing trend.
African teams in Super Rugby are waking up to the potential of recruiting
gnarly "super-veterans" to help balance their increasingly youth-dominated
squads - a result of the debilitating annual defections of seasoned personnel
that 37-year-old Springbok tighthead prop and former Sharks stalwart Jannie du
Plessis will bolster the Lions' cause comes on top of the Bulls having the
back-on-board services - after fairly lengthy absences in each case from Loftus - of lock Juandre Kruger (34) and flyhalf points machine Morne Steyn (35).
the Stormers also appear to have jumped on the bandwagon of ensuring voluminous
experience in a key berth by shelving initial plans to bid farewell to currently
Barbarians-active scrumhalf Jano Vermaak, the almost 35-year-old who, head
coach John Dobson revealed a few days ago, they intend now to retain on a
short-term deal if possible.
With a few
weeks to go before the new season, don't completely write off the possibility
that other "evergreens" ready for a fresh dose of southern-hemisphere sunshine
on their backs join the inward mini-migration.
of domestic franchises in the competition, beginning in late January, have all
been particularly hard hit by prime-of-career exoduses for the 2020 campaign,
so snapping up any returning, household names seeking a last hurrah on the
first-class scene in their land of birth has become flavour of the month.
players are important balancers in age terms, help create a much-needed
semblance of squad depth - something the SA outfits generally boast less and
less of these days - and could be invaluable as mentors and motivators, into
It is also
worth keeping in mind that three of the four SA teams - Lions (Ivan van
Rooyen), Stormers (John Dobson) and Sharks (Sean Everitt) - will feature head
coaches having their baptisms in Super Rugby, an unprecedented hallmark, so the
wealth of knowledge accumulated worldwide by veteran players on their books is
additionally worth weight in gold.
is every chance the confirmed signings would have occurred anyway (Kruger and
Steyn having a nostalgic final fling in Pretoria has been known for months),
the success of much-travelled Brits in being coaxed out of retirement by Rassie
Erasmus to join the Springbok World Cup-winning party in Japan will only have enhanced
the belief among pro rugby recruiters that such outright veterans have
lingering appeal - regardless of how much, or little, they may actually
contribute in personal game-time.
clearly also the sort of good-humoured, positive personality all rugby squads
cherish having in their midst, the 38-year-old hooker and sometimes loose
forward proved a wonderful addition to the Bok "dirt-tracker" plans against
lesser nations during RWC 2019, captaining the cause once and frankly looking
anything but his especially advanced age for mobility and appetite.
Just off a single
Super Rugby season in Pretoria, Brits also remained an integral part of Bok lineout
plans and execution, with his deadeye throwing ability ... a department where
Kruger, albeit in a slightly different way as a second-rower, will help
substantially to rebuild the franchise's effectiveness.
have been decimated on that front by the departures of all of tall-timber men
RG Snyman, Lood de Jager and Jason Jenkins, while Duane Vermeulen also no
longer being available takes away a strong recipient option at the back of the
Not only is
Kruger a good banker in the middle of that set-piece, but he should become an
attractive prospect once more as caller in the department.
international in Heyneke Meyer's Bok coaching tenure, the former Racing Metro
and Toulon stalwart last played for the Bulls in 2013, but will instantly -
like Steyn in the backline - become of their most seasoned figures in the pack.
have also got Josh Strauss (33), the Bellville-born former Lions captain and No
8 who has since represented Scotland at Test level, to put pen to paper for a
late-career deal at Loftus.
be those, you can be fairly sure, questioning whether Lions-based front-ranker
Du Plessis is just too much beyond his halcyon years to be a factor once more
in generally quick-tempo Super Rugby.
World Cup winner - and doctor in his other life - last played in the
competition in 2015, amidst a Sharks eight featuring such now long-departed
names as Etienne Oosthuizen, Marco Wentzel, Willem Alberts and Renaldo Bothma,
and he already seemed a notable veteran even then.
unlikely to closely know too many of a callow Lions side he now infuses,
although the educative qualities he will transfer to Carlu Sadie, 15 years his
junior and still well short of his anticipated premier years as a No 3 scrum
anchor-man, should not be under-estimated.
But the same
characteristic could well apply down at Newlands, where the Stormers keeping
the street-wise Vermaak as cover for and useful advisor to emerging Bok No 9
gem Herschel Jantjies could pay dividends.
thin in the department if injury were to suddenly afflict Jantjies - though his
eagerly-awaited partnership with Damian Willemse potentially gives the
Capetonians one of the most exhilarating nine/ten combos in the competition -
and if they can also keep the three-Test-cap Vermaak fit himself (he has been horribly
jinxed in recent years), they will possess at least one really experienced figure
in an area of the park requiring astute game management and peripheral
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: