The Western Force have once again dipped into the South African market, announcing the signing of Sharks loose forward Brynard Stander.
He has become the eighth SA player on their books – as they strengthened their squad ahead of this year’s Super Rugby season.
Stander’s recruitment for two seasons continues the Perth-based franchise’s move away from a reliance on Australia’s east coast-based player pool.
Stander, 23, joins fellow senior squad members Wilhelm Steenkamp, Chris Heiberg and Marcel Brache, and extended squad members Dillyn Leyds, Dylan Sage and Francois van Wyk as newcomers to the Force.
Flyhalf Sias Ebersohn returns for his second season with the franchise.
Stander is an abrasive and physical back row forward who can play either side of the scrum or at No.8.
“Moving here from South Africa was a big decision, particularly moving away from my family, but it’s been such a welcoming atmosphere,” Stander said.
The Force squad features six Perth-produced players – the most the franchise has ever boasted at any one time.
Returning Western Australians Zack Holmes (flyhalf) and Dane Haylett-Petty (outside back) will join incumbents Kieran Longbottom and Kyle Godwin, and rising stars Ryan Louwrens and Luke Burton, who have both been promoted from the RugbyWA Academy, in the 35-man squad.
Fellow Perth products Ollie Hoskins and Brad Lacey will also be a part of the extended squad as members of the franchise’s wider training group.
The 2014 squad features seven Test internationals (Nick Cummins, Ben McCalman, Hugh McMeniman, Matt Hodgson, Luke Morahan, Pek Cowan and Alby Mathewson) with Cummins, McCalman, McMeniman and Hodgson all re-committing to the franchise for the 2014 and 2015 seasons last year.
Coach Michael Foley said he is pleased with the intent and commitment of the squad throughout the pre-season.
“We’ve maintained a core group of players from last season and added a number of new members who bring both skill and attitude to the team,” he said.
“This team has continued to work extremely hard throughout the pre-season and there is a genuine hunger and desire to achieve more this season.”
Stander, who progressed through the Sharks development program, represented Natal at Under-19 and Under-21 levels, before spending the past two seasons in the coastal province’s Vodacom and Currie Cup squads.
Last year he was crowned Forward of the Year in the Sharks’ Vodacom Cup squad and was a member of the Sharks squad that won the Currie Cup, defeating Western Province, 33-19, in the Final.
Stander said he’s excited about pushing for a Super Rugby debut with the Western Force.
“What excites me is being a part of this team that has so much potential,” he said.
“I’ve seen a lot of fire and team spirit from the boys already and I think everyone wants to do their best for their mate alongside them which is so important for being successful.
“I’ve seen in the past how there can be a talented team but if you’re not playing for each other and if players are trying to do their own thing individually then it falls apart. The massive strength here is that the boys are so gelled and wanting to play for each other.
“The culture within the franchise is great. It’s extremely professional and there’s a high attention to detail and I’m very excited about mixing in with the team this season.”
Foley said Stander will bring additional physicality to the squad in 2014.
“Brynard is a player who rolls his sleeves up on the field and has shown he’s hungry for opportunities” he said. ” He’s strong in contact – both with the ball and in defence.”
Western Force squad: Robbie Abel (Extended Player Squad), Chris Alcock, Phoenix Battye, Marcel Brache, Luke Burton (EPS), Nathan Charles, Adam Coleman (EPS), Angus Cottrell, Pek Cowan, Nick Cummins, Patrick Dellit, Sias Ebersohn, Tetera Faulkner, Kyle Godwin, Dane Haylett-Petty, Jayden Hayward, Chris Heiberg, Matt Hodgson, Zack Holmes, Kieran Longbottom, Ryan Louwrens (EPS), Salesi Manu, Alby Mathewson, Ben McCalman, Hugh McMeniman, Luke Morahan, Ian Prior, Junior Rasolea, Brynard Stander, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Ed Stubbs, Heath Tessmann, Chris Tuatara-Morrison, Rory Walton (EPS), Sam Wykes.
Wider training group: Ollie Hoskins, Brad Lacey, Dillyn Leyds, Dylan Sage, Francois Van Wyk.
courtesy of Rugby365.com