WP Rugby today confirmed that Peter Grant will return from Japan at the conclusion of the Japanese domestic season, to again play for the DHL Stormers in 2012. In further transfer news, Province announced the signing of versatile front rower Deon Carstens from Saracens in the UK.
Carstens who played 9 tests for SA (the last against the British and Irish Lions in 2009) will join up with the DHL Stormers in early January after having secured a release from his team to return home. Schooled at Franschhoek Primary and Boland Landbou High School, the front rower was one of the most capped Sharks players in his time with the franchise (94 provincial and 84 Super Rugby). With some very promising young props coming through the WP ranks (Kitshoff and Malherbe), Carstens, capable of playing on both sides of the scrum, will add depth and experience to the Province front row players, as well as help mentor and further develop the young talent. Carstens has been signed on a 2 year contract.
Other recently signed players include Joe Pietersen and Gerhard van den Heever. Western Province has strategically this season brought through the ranks, a host of young talent that will be added to senior athletes to form a group with depth, capable of competing in next year’s Super Rugby season.
There has been a lot written about an “exodus of young talent” from the WP ranks – here are the facts as they currently stand;
WP has over the past few years put in place structures and facilities to ensure the development and growth of players through its own ranks. This process has been very successful.
The WP Rugby Institute is a top class facility and consistently delivers quality young players capable of playing senior rugby. In 2010 WP U19 and U21’s won their respective competitions and both, despite a strategic policy of playing U21 players in the senior competition, reached the play-offs in 2011. WP Rugby, through its Institute, has developed a succession planning structure whereby we develop our own talent and only when and where necessary will we look outside the borders of the Western Province. This year, for example, 11 Institute graduates played Super Rugby and 14 U21’s played Currie Cup rugby. These young players assisted in taking us to a Super Rugby SA Conference win and a home semifinal, as well as a Currie Cup semifinal. Obviously, we are not satisfied that we did not win the ultimate prizes. After all that is why we are in the business of professional rugby union.
The coaching and team structures currently in place have ensured the progression of players through the ranks and WP, as demonstrated this Absa Currie Cup season, has a large number of very good young players capable of playing senior rugby. The game is professional and as with any code, players are scarce resources and when out of contract they have mobility to move between teams. Despite media reports which give the impression that WP Rugby does not do everything in its power to retain talent, one must take cognisance of the professional world of sport and that once a player is a free agent and out of contract he will make his own decision. Every season at each rugby province/club players move eg. at the Bulls Gary Botha, Bakkies Botha, Du Preez, Rossouw, Steenkamp, Watermeyer have moved; in New Zealand Ma’a Nonu has moved from the Hurricanes to the Blues, Sonny Bill Williams has moved from the Crusaders to the Chiefs. It is simply a reality of professional sports.
WP Rugby currently has an exceptional group of young players coming through the ranks and crucially the bulk of them have opted to stay with WP. In addition the bulk of the senior players have also opted to remain with WP.
Players that are leaving, or have been released include:
• Lionel Cronje – released from contract to the Bulls.
• Sam Lane – returning to his home country Australia - Sam Lane is Australian and after many years away from his family, who reside in Australia, has decided to return home.
• JJ Engelbrecht – out of contract, offered contract by WP Rugby, but opted to sign for the Bulls.
• Johann Sadie - out of contract, offered contract by WP Rugby, but opted to sign for the Bulls.
• Tim Whitehead – Out of contract, offered contract by WP Rugby, but opted to sign for the Sharks.
• Adriaan Fondse – contract not renewed – to Newcastle.
• Conrad Jantjes – contract not renewed – to Biaritz
• Pieter Louw – contract not renewed.
Young players that have opted to stay and who have already (or would have except for injury) played Super and/or Currie Cup rugby, include future stars like:
• front rowers: Kitshoff, Ntubeni and Malherbe,
• locks: Etsebeth and Roux,
• loose forwards: Kolisi, Johannes and Carr
• Back line: Schreuder, Van Aswegen, Coleman, Groom, Catrakillis, Klaasen and Brache.
Let us also not forget Koster and Elstadt who are also still young players, as well as a further group of players emerging from the WP Institute, U19 and U21 teams, that are committed to WP.
It must also be taken into account that the senior internationals, lead by Burger, have recommitted themselves to Province. Whilst certain players have been released and others have opted to move, WP has retained the bulk of its current and future stars, according to the succession plan. Whilst there is still a lot of media and public speculation in the market, there is a succession plan in place and WP will clarify squads and contracting as soon as it is ready to do so in the next few weeks.
The players are currently enjoying an extended break and will return towards the end of November to commence pre-season conditioning.