Stander signs 2-year deal with Force

2014-01-10 00:00

THE 23-year-old Sharks flank Brynard Stander yesterday signed a two-year contract with the Western Force while controversial Kings backrower Luke Watson has pooh-poohed suggestions that he will be moving to Durban.

Stander, the burly product of Westville Boys’ High School, has been a member of the Sharks Currie Cup squad for the past two years.

But, in the face of intense loose forward competition at King’s Park, he has battled to nail down a regular starting place in the Sharks’ senior team and is looking to the Perth-based franchise to provide him with Super Rugby exposure.

The abrasive Stander will join seven other South Africans at the Force. They are Wilhelm Steenkamp, Chris Heiberg, Marcel Brache, Dillyn Leyds, Dylan Sage, Francois van Wyk and flyhalf Sias Ebersohn who joined the Force a year ago.

Stander represented the Sharks at U19 and U21 levels and has played Vodacom and Currie Cup rugby over the past two years.

The Force confirmed signing the young player yesterday.

“Moving to Perth from South Africa was a big decision, particularly moving away from my family,” Stander said. “But it’s been such a welcoming atmosphere.”

Had Stander stayed on in Durban, he would have been vying with five Springbok backrowers (Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Jean Deysel, Keegan Daniel and Ryan Kankowski), along with veteran Jacques Botes, Justin Downey and young Tera Mtembu, for a place in the Sharks’ match squad.

The struggling Force finished 13th last season, winning just four games, and they have targeted young South African players rather than vying with the Reds, Waratahs, Brumbies and Rebels for talent concentrated on the east coast of Australia.

Reports that Sharks coach Jake White had contacted Watson about a possible move to Durban this year were made public by the player’s agent Mark Keohane last month. But Watson yesterday distanced himself from the claim, telling News24 that he would be staying on in Port Elizabeth.

Watson’s proposed move surprised South African rugby, first because the Sharks have an abundance of backrow talent and, second, because the outspoken player had been in public spats with CEO John Smit and White. There was concern that his presence would divide the senior players and the supporters.

Watson, confirming that White had telephoned him, said his future lay with Kings rugby.

“We never talked in-depth. He was just checking to see who is available. He asked about my injury and when I’d be fit again, and also if I would be interested to train with the Sharks. I explained that the Kings are my first priority.

“That’s all that was said and the conversation probably didn’t last longer than two minutes. It was totally blown out of proportion,” said Watson.

The loose forward said that he was still recovering from surgery to his foot and would not be ready to play before March, adding that his focus was on building up the Kings.

“Things are starting to happen here.

“We added Carlos Spencer [backline coach], Michael Horak and Tiger Mangweni [both defence coaches] to our coaching team and there could be more appointments soon. I’d like to be part of the execution of the vision.”

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