Riaan Viljoen quits Sharks to play club in Japan

2013-07-02 00:00

SPRINGBOK fullback Riaan Viljoen, who scored the last-gasp try in the 22-20 Super Rugby win over the Auckland Blues, is to quit the Sharks.

Sharks commercial manager Rudolf Straeuli told The Witness yesterday that Viljoen had been released from his contract and would leave Durban after the Super Rugby competition at the end of the month.

“Yes, Riaan requested clearance so that he can play club rugby in Japan and we have released him,” Straeuli said.

The 30-year-old Viljoen, who joined the Sharks from Griquas two years ago, is joining the Red Hurricanes club in Japan.

Viljoen, taking over from the injured Louis Ludik at fullback early in this year’s Super Rugby campaign, has been one of the few Sharks to shine on attack. Last year he also made a valuable contribution at flyhalf in the Currie Cup competition, helping the Sharks to the final.

Meyer Bosman and Jandre Marais have also been released to play club rugby in France.

Straeuli said that contract negotiations with a number of other players were at an advance stage, adding that he was confident the Sharks would retain all their high-profile players.

The Sharks face the second-placed Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday and caretaker coach Grant Bashford said the team had reason to approach the Pretoria game in positive mood.

The Sharks still have a slim mathematical chance of reaching the play-offs but it was an 18-16 defeat by the Bulls at King’s Park at the end of May that was particularly damaging.

The Sharks, as Bulls captain Piere Spies admitted after the game, had the better of exchanges before a late Morné Steyn penalty and a fluffed pass in an overlap situation in the last minute, settled the match.

Bashford said the players knew they should have beaten the Bulls that day.

“This whole campaign has been around critical moments – a little mistake here, a little mistake there — and if we had won that game, maybe things could have been a little different.”

He said the Sharks pack, with players now back from injury, could match the Bulls.

The Sharks, by way of a change, picked up no new injuries in the win over the Blues but they will have to somehow improve their backplay — with five centres out injured — and tactical kicking game if they are to beat the Bulls in their backyard.

Kick-off is at 7.15 pm on Saturday and young SA referee Jason Jaftha will be in charge.

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