Sharks unveil Pumas superstar

2009-07-28 00:00

THE Sharks unveiled their latest signing, Argentina’s world-class flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez, at King’s Park yesterday.

The 27-year-old Pumas pivot, who played a major role in taking the Argentinians into the 2007 World Cup semi-finals against the Springboks, has left leading French side Stade Français to join the Sharks on a one-year contract. He was nominated as one of the five finalists for the player of the 2007 RWC.

The strongly-built, 85-kg utility back is seen as the ideal replacement for Frans Steyn, who has signed to play rugby in France. The Argentinian’s preferred position is flyhalf, but he has also been rated one of the best fullbacks currently playing the game.

Sharks head coach John Plumtree said last night that Hernandez, who has not played for some weeks, would be given time to settle and would not be in the Sharks team to take on Free State in the Currie Cup match in Bloemfontein on Friday night.

“He will make his debut in the away game against the Leopards the following week,” said Plumtree

Hernandez arrived in Durban at the weekend and was out practising with his new Sharks team-mates yesterday.

Stade Français team manager Ewen McKenzie said Hernandez, rated the most valuable player in the French Top 14, would hit the ground running in the Super 14.

”I think it’ll be a nice change. He’s done six years in France, but I’m sure he’ll be back very soon, somewhere.”

Hernandez said he had a number of friends who had played in Durban and spoke highly of the Sharks’ rugby culture.

“I’ve just had my first training with the Sharks and enjoyed it. The rugby style is different, but I want to learn as much as I can.

“I’ve watched the Sharks playing Super 14 rugby on television and it is like a dream to be here. I’m looking forward to a great experience and to give my best to the team.”

Hernandez said that former Natal and Argentinian scrumhalf Nicolas Miranda had telephoned him about his move.

“He was more excited about it than me.”

Plumtree said that Hernandez needed to be handled with care.

“This signing has been long-awaited.

“He hasn’t played for a while so we have to get the conditioning right so he doesn’t pick up an injury.”

Plumtree said that the new signing would provide the Sharks with many options when they were back to full strength.

“We could use Ruan Pienaar at scrumhalf with Juan, or play him at fullback or centre. It is an exciting time.”

Turning to the Currie Cup, Plumtree said he was pleased that Waylon Murray was back in action after injury and encouraged with the way Monty Dumond had played against the Blue Bulls.

The bad news is that the ill-discipline shown by the Sharks in their win over the Blue Bulls on Friday night had a sequel yesterday when hot-headed scrumhalf Rory Kockott was cited “for an act contrary to good sportsmanship.”

Citing officer Andrew Prior cited Kockott for an offence of grinding his knees to the face of the Bulls lock Wilhelm Steenkamp in the 50th minute of the match. He will appear before a judicial hearing today.

The Sharks, already missing 10 Springboks, can ill-afford to lose another leading player, but Kockott has had disciplinary problems before and, apparently, has learnt little from them.

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