We love to make a fuss about it when we feel the Sharks procure talent from outside their own youth ranks and I think it’s fair to say that opinion on the Riaan Viljoen signing – finally confirmed by the Sharks yesterday – has been divided.
While the Griquas fullback has been an undoubted match winner for his side in the Currie Cup – as well as the regional Cheetahs Super Rugby side – concerns remain regarding his “fit” into the Sharks setup as well as the fact that he was contracted at the expense of far younger players, including Kobus de Kock and Wynand Pienaar, who may have been able to develop and offer the Sharks more good service for longer. Viljoen is, after all, already 28 years old.
Few realise, though – and I’ll admit that I too was unaware – that Viljoen DID actually come through the Sharks age-group ranks, representing Natal at under 19 level in 2002 and the Sharks at under 20 level in 2003. That early-naughties period was, admittedly, a dark one for the Sharks when it comes to youth development, in the days before the Academy got off the ground and casting an eye over the squads from that time, there’s very little quality that sticks out. Call those boys a “lost generation”, where only the likes of Steven Sykes, Mox Mxoli, Peter Grant, Greg Goosen, Viljoen and (interestingly enough) Pumas loose forward RW Kember went on to play any big rugby.
I’m still not sure about the circumstances surrounding Viljoen’s journey from Klerksdorp Hoër (the same school as Wiehahn Herbst) to Durban, only to leave two years later to join the Valke and then move on to Griquas. Rest assured, though, that your intrepid news hounds at Sharksworld will get the full story as soon as possible.
For now, though, let’s celebrating the return to the fold of one a very long-lost sheep indeed! Welcome home, Riaan!Tweet