Recruiting or using high-profile Rugby League players to boost a Rugby Union team is nothing new, but the Durban-based Sharks scored a major coup this week when they secured the services of the legendary Andrew ‘Joey’ Johns.
Sharks coach John Plumtree confirmed to Jan de Koning of rugby365.com on Wednesday that the highly acclaimed and record breaking League star, Johns, was working with his team during their Super 14 pre-season build-up.
And it says a lot about the Sharks’ determination to finally win a Super Rugby title that they scooped the biggest name from the 13-man code.
While these cross-code switches are too numerous to mention, none come bigger than Johns.
In the playing ranks just think Andrew Walker, Wendell Sailor, Mat Rogers, Lote Tuqiri, Ryan Cross, Brad Thorn, Lesley Vainikolo, Clinton Schifcofske and Timana Tahu from a more recent vintage – Frano Botica, Michael Cleary, Jonathan Davies, George Fairbairn, Ray French, John Gallagher, Scott Gibbs, Scott Quinnell, Jason Robinson, Alan Tait and Va’aiga ‘Inga’ Tuigamala of the older generation.
Now, mention Johns and the accolades can make the aforementioned list seem almost ordinary.
Johns is considered by connoisseurs as one of the greatest players of all time, and was heralded as the world’s best League halfback (flyhalf) for a number of years.
He is one of only two players, the other being Darren Lockyer, to have won the Golden Boot Award more than once and is the only player to have won the Dally M Medal for Best Player in the National Rugby League of Australia three times. Johns finished his career as the highest points scorer in Australian First Grade Premiership history with 2,176 points.
The Sharks’ Currie Cup-winning coach, Plumtree, has a far more simplistic view that doesn’t involve the now retired League legend’s statistics or awards.
“He can do stuff that no other player can do,” Plumtree told rugby365.com during a break from his team’s training regime.
“Option taking in taking the ball to the line was his hallmark,” Plumtree added, in explaining the reasoning behind Johns’s visit to Durban.
“There’s no doubt he was an outstanding playmaker [in his playing days] and he is looking to improve Ruan Pienaar and Francois Steyn [the Sharks' flyhalves].
“He has also been great with [Springbok centre] Adi Jacobs.
“Decision making is very important and he is imparting his knowledge onto our players and they are enjoying his presence,” Plumtree added.
The Sharks coach also revealed that his team has a few injury concerns, but none that are long-term problems.
Veteran lock Albert van den Berg is expected to be sidelined for another four weeks after off-season shoulder surgery, World Cup-winning Bok hooker Bismark du Plessis (hamstring and knee surgery) are also still weeks away from a return, flank Jacques Botes (groin) is pencilled in for a return in three to four weeks and prop Pat Cilliers (knee injury in training) is sidelined for an undetermined period.
“They should all be back in time for the start of the Super 14,” Plumtree said.Tweet