Jean Deysel’s wife Cindy must feel like a bit of a rugby widow because no sooner has the powerhouse loose forward wrapped up a season with Japanese club Toyota Verblitz than he signed a fresh contract to join the Cell C Sharks for SuperRugby.
Deysel of course made his name for the Sharks with his strong ball-carrying abilities and sheer physicality, earning four Springbok caps between 2009 and 2011, but the Natalians’ new coach, Gary Gold, secured his signature afresh once his availability became known.
“I’m very happy to be back; when Gary spoke to me about three weeks ago it was an easy decision to make. It’s always good coming back to Durban, to see the players again and it’s a great union to play for. So it was an easy decision once Gary offered me the opportunity,” Deysel said this week at King’s Park.
“When I initially signed the contract with Toyota Verblitz, I didn’t think I’d be coming back, it was a late decision for me. It wasn’t on the cards not that long ago, so it feels great to be here now.”
While Deysel’s participation in last weekend’s SuperRugby opener against the Cheetahs was limited to a second-half appearance off the bench, his body certainly felt the difference between the less-physical Japanese leagues and the toughest competition in world rugby.
“I played just 30 minutes on Saturday, and I battled to get out of the car on Sunday, whereas when I played in Japan, Sundays were good. SuperRugby is a lot more physical, you do miss that and the heavy competitiveness of it. And it actually feels good to get up on a Sunday and really feel like it was a tough game the day before,” one of the Sharks’ ultimate hard men said.
Deysel said Gold’s new ball-in-hand approach for the Sharks suits his style of play as he just loves carrying the “pill” as often as he can.
“Gary has been great; the way he speaks and thinks about the game is phenomenal. He puts so much preparation into the game you almost feel like you have to do your part just to catch up. He has been very influential not just for me, but for the whole team.”
“The way Gary structures the game, it’s about sharing the ball-carrying load, but for me, being involved on Saturday, it was just good to be back and I just wanted to have the ball in my hands. But you still have to stay in the structures that have been set out, but it’s about sharing the work-load,” Deysel said.
Even though Deysel is no rookie, having earned 67 SuperRugby caps previously for the Sharks as well as playing 92 Currie Cup matches for the Lions and the Natalians, his return to action in the southern hemisphere was quite a moment for the 29-year-old.
“I can’t remember when I’ve been that nervous before a game. Maybe eight years ago when I played my first match, but I think I was even more nervous this time around. I must take my hat off to the guys and the coaching staff, they made it so much easier to fit in and get into the game-plan. Everyone had a massive impact during the week, so it was much easier for me to fit back in because everyone helped so much,” Deysel said.
And after their upset loss to the Cheetahs, there is no way the Sharks are going to underestimate the Lions this weekend.
“The Lions have a very good loose-trio and they’ve been playing together for a while now. They link together well and do the job that the coaches want them to do. So we will need to match them, not just physically but skills-wise as well. We’ll prepare well and hopefully get one over them this Saturday,” Deysel said.
And what did the man who grew up in the Free State gold mining town of Virginia miss the most while he was in Japan?
“There were no braais! I missed that the most to be honest. Being in Japan was a great experience and a real learning curve. Toyota is a great club and they are so eager to learn and develop their rugby, not just in general but as a culture. For me to go there and see that was awesome, but this is home and it’s where all my friends and family are. There were a lot of things I missed and it’s really good to be back,” Deysel said.