The prodigiously talented young Western Province right wing, Mathew Turner, is set to join a growing number of younger players turning their back on South African rugby to seek greener pastures, which could see him wearing the Rose of England (in Sevens) as early as this year.
Rugby 365 reports that twenty-year-old Turner, rated broadly as a future Springbok, has failed to make the SA Under-20 team, as well as the Western Province U21 team.
In the Province team he has failed to lift two club mates who he plays ahead of at the University of Cape Town and Morné Jooste, son of Springbok selector Peter.
Turner first came to the fore starring for Western Province Under-19 last year before really lighting up the FNB Varsity Cup for the exciting UCT team with some breathtaking performances, which also saw him finishing as the top try-scorer together with his fellow Ikeys wing Marcello Sampson.
Many pundits regard him as a potential great. Robbie Fleck, the former Bok vice-captain, who has coached Turner at UCT this season, said: “Mat is a rare one; he is the ultimate wing. Very fast, very strong, highly skilled and a great finisher. He is a pure Springbok in the making.”
Turner is believed to have signed a contract with Bristol Rugby in England’s Guinness Premiership, but the real clincher is that he has been drafted straight into the English Sevens training squad with a view to next year’s Sevens World Cup.
The speedster has an English mother and as soon as he dons the Sevens shirt of England that will be the end of his chances of playing for the Boks. It is clear that Turner felt aggrieved at his lack of progress in South Africa by failing to make the various age-group squads, despite his performances and testing results.
His coach at UCT, John Dobson, is already ruing the loss of his major attacking weapon.
“It’s a massive loss for us, the province and, ultimately, a pity for South Africa,” said Dobson. “People may not think so now as he is an unknown, but I assure you that this will not be the case for long.
“The lack of effort to help keep Matt in the country was depressing, especially as a current member of the Tri Nations squad told me Turner was one of the best wings he had seen.”
Turner’s agent, Kevin Foote was keen to point out that Turner did not leave with any ill-feelings toward South African rugby at all. In fact, he leaves with a heavy heart.
“The thing is,” said Foote, “Mat is a professional rugby player and that is all he wants to do. It is his career and he had to make a choice to play where he could grow his career best.”
Time will tell…
* Of course, should Turner earn a full Test cap for England, he would certainly not be the first UCT player to do so, the most recent being Bath prop Matt Stevens – a member of England’s 2007 Rugby World Cup squad.
Stevens, who has already won 28 England caps, left Cape Town – initially to study at Bath University – in September 2002. England handed him a Test debut against New Zealand less than two years later.Tweet