The Sharks are hard at work this week, despite the two week break in Currie Cup proceedings. That didn’t stop us from cornering this season’s most exciting up-and-comer, Jean Deysel, for a quick chat, though.
Jean told us that the Sharks were glad to have a bit of a break at this stage of the season. “There are a lot of sore bodies and it’s nice to have a bit of a rest. Earlier in the season, we weren’t that sure how the break would work out, but now that it’s here, we’re very glad.” Deysel has every reason to feel slightly tender, if his recent heroics on defence (and with ball in hand) against the Lions are anything to go by.
“Not to take anything away from the Lions, but I really felt we played very well last weekend. The first half was probably the best half we’ve played. Even in the second half, where we had to defend a lot, we did that very well and that’s something great we can take into the final.” Although the Sharks didn’t score as many tries as they usually do, it didn’t matter on the day, because the combination of ruthless defence, a low error rate and Ruan Pienaar’s seldom-erring boot ensured that the Lions never got into the game. “It’s great having a guy like that in the team,” Deysel says of Pienaar, “because when he lines them up, you just know they’re going over”.
So where does Jean Deysel come from and how did he end up in Durban? “I played a lot for the University of Johannesburg and I had a very good Vodacom Cup for the Lions in 2007. I didn’t make the Lions Currie Cup team that year, though and I was very disappointed about that, ” Deysel says. He spent the early parts of the Currie Cup season practising with the Lions on Mondays and Tuesdays, but was never given an opportunity to play. “I wasn’t really enjoying rugby at that stage, because nothing was happening,” he said. In yet another stunning example of ignoring talent under their very noses, the Lions administration agreed with Deysel that he should seek a contract with another union and he immediately met with Dick Muir and Rudolf Straueli of the Sharks.
“They told me they wanted me to play in the compulsory friendly against Eastern Province, and I was very blessed to have my best game of the season on that day.” Deysel, playing at number 8 for the Sharks invitational team (although still contracted to the Lions) scored a hat trick of tries. A Sharks contract followed soon after. He went on to play a bit part in the Sharks 2007 Currie Cup campaign (which was disrupted by a hamstring injury sustained in the National Club Champs) but really started to catch the eye in the 2008 Super 14.
“I still haven’t started a Super 14 game, but I came off the bench a few times this year and had some good performances” he tells us. Few will forget a superb cameo against the Chiefs where a moment of Deysel magic set up the sixth try, for Ryan Kankowski. “This Currie Cup has been the first one where I’ve been an important part of the team throughout.” I put it to Deysel that the Sharks’ recent run of good results has coincided with his emergence in the number 7 shirt. Incredibly, he admits “I’ve never really played 7 before. I think it’s quite similar to 8, where I played for the Lions under 21s. I think you see a bit more of the ball at 8, though. For UJ, I actually played at 6. That’s because the Lions told me that they saw me on the openside and I needed to be playing in that position to stand a chance of being selected.” The time spent as a ball-hunter has clearly had a marked impact on Jean’s game, as his ability to force turnovers is one of the biggest strengths of his game.
So who would Jean pick as his ideal teammates in a world-class loose trio? “It’s a difficult question to answer, but I’ll take my mates at the Sharks, either Ryan, Jacques and me, or Ryan, Keegan and me. For a loose trio, the guys have to complement each other – that’s the most important thing. That’s how we work at the Sharks and we bring out the best in each other, even though it may not always be the three best guys in each position.” Speaking of Keegan Daniel, Jean admitted that he hadn’t realised, before coming to the Sharks, that the two flankers were essentially “twins”, both born on 5 March 1985. “Keegan’s a great guy,” he says, “you have to meet him to understand what he’s really like. What you see on the field is exactly what he’s like in real life”.
Jean’s goals for the future are quite clear. “I want to establish myself as a regular starter in the Super 14 next year,” he says. I asked him about the Bok tour squad and whether his thoughts were turning towards possible selection, given the amazing season he’s having. “A lot of people are asking about it and obviously everybody wants to play for the Springboks. I have been playing well, but so have a lot of other people. If I don’t make it, I’ll be a little disappointed, but I’ve been so blessed to have had such a good season this year that not making the Boks won’t be something that I’ll get miserable about. There’s always next year.” Talking about the incredible loose forward depth in the country, Deysel says, “it really brings out the best in you, knowing that there are so many other guys who are just as good as you just waiting to take your place. I just makes you try so much harder to make sure you stay on top of your game.”
So where does the nickname “Wollie” or “Wolla” come from? “It’s a nickname from my res days at UJ,” Deysel laughs. “The guys just said it was easier to call out ‘Wollie’ on the field than it was to say ‘Jean’. I’m just one of the lucky guys whose res nickname seems to have stuck.” Is it surprising, then, that Cobus “Baywatch” Grobbelaar and Kobus “Varkhond” Grobler roomed at the same establishment during their varsity days?
Sharksworld would like to thank Jean Deysel for his time and wish him and his teammates all the best for the final to come, as well as the Bok announcement thereafter. We’re with you guys no matter what!Tweet