Select Edition

Northern Northern
Southern Southern
Global Global
NZ NZ

The MLR franchise hoovering up South African schoolboy talent

By Ian Cameron
Thaakir Abrahams and David Coetzer of South Africa U20 celebrates with teammates after scoring a try during a third place play-off match between Argentina U20 and South Africa U20 as part of World Rugby U20 Championship 2019 (Photo by Marcelo Endelli - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Major League Rugby’s Houston SaberCats are increasingly turning to South African talent to fill their roster – and it’s all thanks to their heavy-hitting director of rugby.

ADVERTISEMENT

Springbok coaching royalty Heyneke Meyer was unveiled as the franchise’s new DoR last year and it’s fair to say there’s more than a little hint of a South African lilt to the side. Placed fifth in the MLR, Meyer’s is a team that has come to rely heavily on recruits from the 54-year-old’s native lands.

A quick glance over their squad list would make most Gallagher Premiership DoRs blush, such is the reliance on the Rainbow Nation. There’s more ‘vans’ than a DHL depot.

Video Spacer

Pita Pens & More French Wins | Le French Rugby Podcast | Episode 29

Toulouse centre Pita Ahki joins us to discuss the drama of the penalty shootout at the Aviva Stadium, whether he’d have fancied taking one, returning to Dublin to take on Leinster and much more. Plus, Benji reveals he was next in line to take a penalty when Leicester beat Cardiff in a shootout in 2009, we analyse all the European action, chat about the prospect of Eddie Jones moving to the Top 14 and pick our MEATER Moment of the Week…
Use the code FRENCHPOD20 at checkout for 20% off any full price item at Meater.com
Head over to daysbrewing.com and use the code RUGBYPASS15 to get 15% off a case of their 0.0% beers

Video Spacer

Pita Pens & More French Wins | Le French Rugby Podcast | Episode 29

Toulouse centre Pita Ahki joins us to discuss the drama of the penalty shootout at the Aviva Stadium, whether he’d have fancied taking one, returning to Dublin to take on Leinster and much more. Plus, Benji reveals he was next in line to take a penalty when Leicester beat Cardiff in a shootout in 2009, we analyse all the European action, chat about the prospect of Eddie Jones moving to the Top 14 and pick our MEATER Moment of the Week…
Use the code FRENCHPOD20 at checkout for 20% off any full price item at Meater.com
Head over to daysbrewing.com and use the code RUGBYPASS15 to get 15% off a case of their 0.0% beers

Familiar faces like Willie Britz rub shoulders alongside players like Dillon Smit, Jaco Bezuidenhout, Gerrie Labuschagne, Wynand Grassmann, Marcell Muller, Louritz Van Der Schyff, Frikkie De Beer and Dean Muir.

Maybe most interesting is the development of Kian Meadon, Gideon van Wyk and David Coetzer, who are all in their early 20s and were highly rated products of the SA schools system. They’re a calibre of player that one would normally expect to pick up a contract with a South African franchise and stay in the domestic system, or potentially become project players in Europe.

Instead, they’re heading to rugby’s new frontier.

The SaberCats signing of Springboks U20s star 20-year-old Meadon, who went on a brief loan to Rugby ATL in March, is intriguing.

Meadon began his provincial age-grade rugby career with Western Province and played for the Sharks in the 2021 national U20 Cup. A product of the famed Paarl Boys High School program, he rose to prominence with South Africa Schools team in 2019 before playing for Baby Boks in 2021.

ADVERTISEMENT

Around the same time Meyer also signed fellow flyhalf David Coetzer, who has a similar impressive junior rugby resume to Meadon.

Coetzer had progressed through the Blue Bulls’ age-group program. In 2020, he led the Pretorians U21 team to a national title. He won the famous Varsity Cup last year with the University of Pretoria Tuks, where he played alongside another SaberCats recruit, Jaco Bezuidenhout.

No.8 Van Wyk, a product of Menlopark High School and latterly Paarl Boys High school also catches the eye as a young South African talent that one might have expected to have stayed within the SA system.

He repped South Africa at U18s level and the University of Free State, before winning caps for the Cheetahs. At 6’3 and 103kg, the native of Lichtenberg may have been perceived as lacking the bulk many South African selectors would look for in a No.8.

ADVERTISEMENT

It’s maybe no surprise given Meyer’s clout in South Africa that he’s been able to lure talent with the promise of game time and the bright lights of America and the MLR.

However, convincing young players that a stint in the still-evolving tournament would be a good career move might have taken a stronger argument. Meyer may well have argued that playing time at the MLR beats fighting for a Currie Cup place against more established players.

The players likely view MLR as a platform to prove themselves before potentially heading back to South Africa or Europe as more experienced operators, as opposed to an end unto itself.

A former Leicester Tigers, Stormers and Bulls boss, Meyer led the Springboks to a third-place finish at the 2015 World Cup in England. He went on to become head coach at Stade Francais, before taking up his current role. While his rugby nous is beyond reproach, clearly when appointing DoRs clubs also look at what they do with regards to recruitment, and the Sabercats are certainly getting bang for their buck with Meyer.

The question might be for South African rugby: is talent drain to the MLR a real long-term concern for franchises?

ADVERTISEMENT

Join free

LIVE

{{item.title}}

Trending on RugbyPass

Comments

0 Comments
Be the first to comment...

Join free and tell us what you really think!

Sign up for free
ADVERTISEMENT

Latest Features

Comments on RugbyPass

B
B.J. Spratt 3 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

You Poms and Paddies are really nice guys. New Zealand V Ireland - 37 Tests - N.Z. 31 Wins - Ireland 5 Wins - 1 draw. New Zealand V England - 45 Tests - N.Z. 35 Wins -England 8 Wins - 2 draws. Combined - You have beaten the All Blacks 13 Times in 82 attempts over 119 years. The Stats over 100 years + would say, especially England with 6 Times the player pool than New Zealand, you have “a limitation of context” regarding developing your coaches to teach your players how to WIN. So how can England with a 6 times the player numbers have a 17% winning strike rate against New Zealand? and be 8 -0 in Test Series over 100 years. The answer is simple. Your perception of the game. How do you fix it? You need to play in New Zealand for a couple of seasons in your teens, 18 -20 or send coaches over here. Martin Johnstone played 2 seasons here under the mentorship of Colin Meads. When he came here he had rugby shorts with pockets and a handkerchief in one pocket. He played for NZ Under 21 against Wallaby John Eales. He became the toughest player in the game and the best ever English Captain and Captained the Lions twice. Legend! Maybe if he hadn’t come to New Zealand, he may still had those rugby shorts with pockets. Recently Rogan O’Gara spent time at the Crusaders. What a great coach. “Our “mindset is different” and that’s how we have beaten you for 100 years + How the hell he isn’t Coaching Ireland, France, England, Wales, or Scotland I will never know? England has 131,000 Senior rugby Players. Ireland has 21,000 Senior Players. New Zealand has 27,000 Senior Players.

42 Go to comments
FEATURE
FEATURE Rikki Swannell: 'It was the most visceral reaction I’ve ever seen or heard in sport.' Rikki Swannell: 'It was the most visceral reaction I’ve ever seen or heard in sport.'
Search