Sharks confirm two new major signings

2010-02-19 00:00

THE Sharks yesterday confirmed two major signings, with England flyhalf Andy Goode and young Bulls lock Wilhelm Steenkamp joining them for the Super 14 campaign.

The 29-year-old Goode, capped 17 times for England and now playing for Brive in France, is to join the Sharks on their overseas tour while Steenkamp, on loan from the Bulls, could be on the bench for tonight’s Super 14 game against the Cheetahs.

Goode is a rushed replacement to fill the gap at flyhalf following the loss of first Juan Hernandez and then Steve Meyer, and underlines head coach John Plumtree’s determination to return Ruan Pienaar to his preferred position of scrumhalf.

Goode, a prolific goalkicker, made his senior debut at the age of 18 for the successful Leicester Tigers, the English club which won four successive Premiership and two Heineken Cup titles.

After a year with Saracens (2002/3), he returned to Leicester for five years and made his debut for England in 2005. Early in 2008, Goode became the all-time leading points scorer in the Guinness Premiership, overtaking Johnny Wilkinson.

Goode has spent the last two seasons with Brive and was the second highest point-scorer in the French Top 14 last season.

The Sharks have also managed to borrow one of the country’s top young locks, the 25-year-old Steenkamp, from the Bulls for the duration of the Super 14.

The Sharks suddenly found themselves facing a second-row crisis when new signing Gerhard Mostert and veteran Johann Muller both went down with injuries in the Super 14 opener against the Chiefs at the weekend.

Compounding the Sharks’ problem is that another veteran, the 35-year-old Albert van den Berg, was not contrac­ted this year and he is to end his career playing club rugby in Japan.

While Muller (pinched nerve in his shoulder) is expected to return to action soon, Mostert is almost certainly out for the Super 14 after dislocating his shoulder.

Alistair Hargreaves and Steven Sykes are locking the scrum against the Cheetahs tonight, but Steenkamp could be used as a replacement and will leave with the Sharks on their overseas tour on Sunday.

Coach Plumtree said he was delighted with the two signings.

“Bringing in these two players has certainly bolstered our squad depth significantly, as the pair come with a huge amount of experience and will bring something special to the team. Andy Goode’s reputation at Leicester and for England speaks for itself and you need top quality players like him.”

Plumtree said that Steenkamp would “get quality game time with the Sharks” after the injury to Mostert.

“We certainly need a player of Steenkamp’s talent and we appreciate the Bulls’ generosity in releasing him to us.”

The 112 kilogram, two-metre tall Steenkamp, who has been forced to play his rugby in the shadow of Victor Matfield, came close to Springbok selection last year. He was in the Emer­ging Springbok team which drew 13-13 with the British Lions at Newlands, and he played in all 13 Super 14 games for the Bulls in his debut season in 2008.

Tall, athletic and with an excellent work-rate, the former SA U21 player, who turned 25 earlier this month, could prove a valuable gain for the Sharks.

“The Sharks were in need of a top class lock and we have released Wilhelm due to our depth in that position,” Bulls manager Ian Schwartz said yesterday.

“We have no doubt that he will add value to the Sharks in their campaign and this will not only benefit the player, but South African rugby as a whole.”

Rudolf Straeuli, the Sharks commercial manager, said yesterday that there was no talk of attempting to sign Bok centre Jean de Villiers, who returns to South Africa from Munster in May. “As far as I know, he has already committed to going back to Province.”

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