Western Province reject Paul Delport has suffered more than his fair share of bad luck during his short professional career, but that could all change with the Springbok Sevens team. Simon Borchardt reports on sportsillustrated.co.za.
When the scrumhalf captained the Baby Boks to the U19 World Cup title in 2003 and represented SA U21 in 2004 and 2005, it appeared to be just a matter of time before he would get to wear the green and gold at Test level.
But with Bolla Conradie and Neil de Kock fighting for the WP and Stormers’ No 9 jerseys, Delport found his path to the top blocked. That looked set to change when De Kock signed a contract with Saracens in 2006, but Delport was then diagnosed with glandular fever, inflammation of the brain, meningitis and hepatitis. He would spend the next six months in bed.
Delport finally returned to competitive rugby in June 2007, playing 10 matches in the Currie Cup. But he was still regarded by many as WP’s third-choice scrumhalf behind Bolla Conradie and newcomer Conrad Hoffman, which soon became fourth-choice when the union signed Ricky Januarie. After being excluded from the Stormers Super 14 squad this year, Delport wore the WP No 9 jersey in the Vodacom Cup, but soon lost his place to Alastair Siegelaar, who then started for WP in the Currie Cup when Conradie was called up to the Boks (Hoffman was injured).
However, just when it seemed as if Delport’s rugby career was over, he was offered a two-year contract with the Springbok Sevens team. “I have made a business decision to play Sevens rugby for two years, make some money, and see what happens,” said the 24-year-old at the launch of the Bok Sevens campaign in Cape Town. “I may never return to 15-man rugby, but things can change, so who knows?”
Delport would undoubtedly rather be preparing for next year’s Super 14 with the Stormers, but refuses to feel sorry for himself. “Lots of rugby players suffer setbacks and disappointments in their career, so I’m not the only one. I’m really looking forward to the Sevens World Series and making a big contribution. It’s great to be back with the Bok Sevens side. There are only 12 guys in the squad, so there’s a real family atmosphere with everyone looking out for each other. I’m going to be playing as a sweeper, which involves covering my teammates and organising things, so ja, things are looking good.”
If Delport has given up on making an impact in the 15-man game, he shouldn’t, because Gcobani Bobo has already proved it can be done. Having been dropped from the Sharks Super 14 squad in 2007, Bobo was released to play Sevens where he excelled to such an extent that he returned to play for the Sharks in the Currie Cup. Shortly after, the midfielder was offered a contract with the Stormers and by June he was back with the Boks.
Hopefully, Delport can achieve a similar comeback and finally go on to fulfil his potential.Tweet