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Defending the Age-Man

Written by André Meyer (Culling Song)

Posted in :Original Content, Reader Submissions, Sharks on 14 Jul 2011 at 07:16
Tagged with : , ,

During the recent Super 15 there was a veritable chorus of voices clamouring for Oupa Stefan Terblanche’s omission from the Sharks’ starting lineup, or at the very least, for him to be moved from outside centre to fullback. Moreover, with the appointment of Keegan Daniel as Currie Cup captain, which effectively negates the need for Stefan to start every game, there is every reason to believe that the chorus will only intensify in pitch. Also, let the record show that I was one of the lead voices in the choir, and that I still stand by my opinion that Stefan’s performances were by and large not up to the standard required in Super Rugby. So rest easy, all you mother Grundy Terblanche detractors out there, this is not a plea to give Oupa another shot at success in the no. 13 jumper (although I do think he may just cut the mustard yet at Currie Cup level).

The point that I am so long-windedly trying to get to is that to judge Stefan, and his ability to still contribute to the Sharks cause on his recent performances is to do the man an enormous disservice. After all, it’s not as if he’s the one responsible for consistently selecting himself in a position to which he’s had no exposure for the majority of his career, a position which is widely regarded as one of the most difficult in the backline, now is it?

So, rather consider the fact that this is a guy who has a playing career spanning in excess of 15 years, largely devoid of injuries, during which time he has amassed almost 300 first class games to his name. A guy who, at 36, is probably in better physical shape than any other player in the Sharks ranks, and is still playing top flight rugby (as I said, his performance levels can be debated, but the fact remains that his body is still up to the physical demands of playing in virtually every game of the season). This speaks volumes of his work ethic, his professionalism, discipline, loyalty and dedication.

Now add to that the fact that he has played locally in just about every age group and level of competition. He holds the record for most tries in a season, and most tries in total for Boland, was joint top try scorer in the 1998 Super 12, and has won the Currie Cup twice with the Sharks. He has represented South Africa at age group level, and has played 37 tests for the Springboks, scoring four tries on debut, and that against an accomplished Irish outfit, not some third-rate amateur team dispatched from a South American banana republic (yes, I’m looking at you, Tonderai). He boasts a Tri-nations medal, and his try per test ratio has only been exceeded by Ray Mordt and Danie Gerber. He has played abroad for Ospreys (and played a part in winning the Magners league), and represented the Barbarians. The extent and depth of experience he boasts is something you will find in very few players.

Consider also that he captained the Sharks in their most recent victorious campaign, published a regular newspaper column, and appears composed and at ease when facing the media, and it is clear that in addition to all his aforementioned attributes, he is also an eloquent and astute person of strong character.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I present to you Stefan Terblance, the consummate professional, the repository of experience, the vault of intellectual capital – in short, the role model. Which means that he is *exactly* the kind of guy you want to retain in some capacity as coach or mentor. Personally, I feel that Stefan is ideally suited as some sort of conditioning coach, and could have a massive impact if properly utilized at junior level. Imagine having him in charge of fitness at the Sharks Academy or U-19 level; not only would he talk the talk, he would walk the walk, and out-walk anyone wishing to challenge him. Having the values that he is the embodiment of ingrained into future Sharks players at a young age could only stand our union in good stead, and would allow Stefan the opportunity to grow and develop his abilities as a coach, while allowing the Sharks to retain his experience and knowledge. I for one would be overjoyed if Oupa could stay on at the Sharks until he really is an Oupa.


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