AJ Venter's days as Shark are over, signs as lock for Western Province

2008-05-26 00:00

Sharks CEO Brian van Zyl said yesterday that A.J. Venter’s contract, negotiated in November last year, was for the 2008 Super 14 season only and the former Springbok is now a free agent.

Venter, who turns 35 in July, initially planned to quit the game last year when he announced his retirement from international rugby ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

"In November, AJ told me he was keen to have one final Super 14 season and we accommodated him with what we believed was a lucrative offer for 2008," said Van Zyl.

The Sharks CEO said that because Venter had signed for only the Super 14 fresh plans had been put in place to cover for him for the rest of the year.

"We have contracted Jean Deysel and we also have other up-and-coming players on our books."

Venter has now reportedly signed to play Currie Cup rugby, at lock, for Western Province.

The veteran utility forward, citing a sore thumb, was a late and surprising withdrawal from the Sharks’ semi-final against the NSW Waratahs with a decidedly rusty Epi Taione, after six weeks on the sidelines, replacing him on the side of the scrum.

Van Zyl said that a decision on whether French flyhalf Frederic Michalak would play for the Sharks in the Currie Cup is still to be made.

"We are waiting for local medical reports on his injured knee before we make any decision," he said.

Meanwhile, 11 Sharks have been invited to join the massive Springbok training camp in Somerset West with the omissions rather than the selections causing most debate.

Flank Jacques Botes and scrumhalf Rory Kockott, consistent performers in the Super 14, miss out as does tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis. And, in midfield, centre Brad Barritt is overlooked while Waylon Murray, a weak distributor and dropped by coach Dick Muir in recent weeks, is included.

Jannie du Plessis, a member of Jake White’s World Cup-winning squad, shared the tighthead duties with BJ Botha at the Sharks.

New Bok coach Peter de Villiers told Sapa that Du Plessis should not read too much into his omission.

"Jannie did not always make the Sharks’ starting line-up in the Super 14 this season," said De Villiers. "There are some guys like [Brian] Mujati who have been stars of the Super 14. By not having Jannie here it is not to say that he’s not good enough, or that we don’t want him, it’s just that there are other guys on song. We always said that we [Springbok selectors] will look at form.

"Really, I wish I could have all the players at this camp."

The omission of the combative Kockett is curious considering his form, his accurate goal-kicking and the injury to number one scrumhalf Fourie du Preez.

There is reward for wing Odwa Ndungane, who joins his twin brother at the camp, centre Adrian Jacobs and Zimbabwean prop Beast Mtawarira. Lanky World Cup lock Albert van den Berg is, however, overlooked.

The Sharks players will arrive in Cape Town later today.

Sharks players for inclusion in the Bok training squad: BJ Botha, Bismarck du Plessis, Adrian Jacobs, Ryan Kankowski, Tendai Mtawarira, Johann Muller, Waylon Murray, Odwa Ndungane, Ruan Pienaar, JP Pietersen and Francois Steyn.

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