New Western Force signing, abrasive back-rower Brynard Stander, is looking to move out of the shadows of former Springbok clubmates.
Stander impressed at the Durban-based Sharks with his high work rate and tough, uncompromising approach but had a number of big name flankers including Willem Alberts and Jean Deysel ahead of him.
He was the Sharks’ Vodacom Cup forward of the year last season, was a member of their Currie Cup winning squad. Incredibly he had a near perfect tackle count.
But when the chance came to move to the Force Stander had no second thoughts, his signing for two years completing the club’s 2014 Super squad.
“Moving was a big decision, particularly moving away from my family, but when your gut decision tells you that you should go for something you should always back yourself,” Stander said.
“It’s a great opportunity being 23-years-old and being able to come to Australia to play Super Rugby. It’s a massive opportunity you only get once in a lifetime.
“My work rate was one of the highest in the entire Sharks set up and I pride myself with that. My tackle per centage was pretty much 100 per cent.”
A strong ball runner, Stander can play in either the No.7 or No. 8 jumper, but will face strong competition in the traditionally strong Force back row.
“I think one of my strengths is being able to get over the gain line,” he said.
“The back row competition is a bit of a challenge but I think I’m at the right age to take that challenge. Having competition is healthy for the team, it’s healthy for me as an individual.”
The 108kg and 190cm Stander graduated through their academy and representing the club at every age level before winning a senior contract.
He is the fourth South African to join the Force Super squad this year with the club moving away from Australia’s limited east coast player pool, joining marquee signing and emerging Springbok second-rower Wilhelm Steenkamp who has more than 50 Super Rugby games for the Bulls, Cheetahs and Sharks, and centre Marcel Brache and prop Chris Heiberg both from the Western Province.
Fly-half Sias Ebersohn already has one season under his belt after signing from the Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs
Three other WP representatives, prop Francois van Wyk, South African Junior World winner fly-half/full-back Dillyn Leyds and outside back Dylan Sage are in the wider training group.
“I wasn’t aware that so many boys had been drafted. It’s great to see, coming into the team culture, that there are a couple of South African boys which made it easier although the team and the Australian boys have been welcoming,” Stander said.
“The team has massive potential, the team spirit is great. With that blend we can be really successful. At the end of the day you want to play for your brother and not for a stranger.”
Coach Michael Foley said Stander would bring a physical presence to the squad.
“Brynard is a player who rolls his sleeves up on the field and has shown he’s hungry for opportunities. “ He’s strong in contact, both with the ball and in defence.”