CAPE TOWN - I can only imagine how excited Godlen Masimla must be about the new adventures that await him in Europe or, more specifically, the PRO14.
Masimla was last week included in the Southern Kings’ 40-man squad that will kick off their PRO14 campaign on September 2 against Scarlets. And, like I said, he must be excited.
It must be great to start afresh, to use your talent and experience to make yourself into an even better brand. It must be great to get to do that in a different competition, in a different country, in a different hemisphere.
But there can also be a bit of disappointment in how things turned out for the No 9, or a few 'what ifs' that will probably slowly, or maybe suddenly, disappear once the much-anticipated competition with a bit of South African flavour kicks off next month.
You see, Masimla has what it takes to make it in South African rugby - and that wasn’t only made clear by the excitement shown about Masimla’s abilities by coaches like John Dobson - who has publicly touted the the 25-year-old as a future Bok - but also by what he’s shown he can do on the field.
Masimla could have been a great asset for Western Province rugby, not only because, well, the Cape side don’t exactly have a brimming pot of youthful scrumhalf resources, but also because of the crucial role he could have played in the WP and Stormers outfits.
But he hasn’t always been given a decent chance to show his worth at Super Rugby level on a constant, flowing basis - partly due to injuries as well as a few selection calls that could be seen as contentious.
With the kind of speed, defence, work across the ground and around the fringes, as well as the attacking skill Masimla offers, his Currie Cup and Super Rugby stats should have boasted larger numbers in the appearances made section.
And his departure will certainly be felt by WP rugby, especially given the fact that Masimla not only offered undoubtable talent and skill, but many years in his young legs as well.
Yes, there’s Justin Phillips, a 22-year-old who’s racked up significant Super Rugby and Currie Cup experience, and then there’s Jano Vermaak and Dewaldt Duvenage - two guys with a ‘born in the 1980’s’ etching on their bios. So although Vermaak’s performances have been pleasing, it’s very reasonable to ask how long they will still be able to run out for WP and the Stormers. And that, again, emphasises the loss of young Masimla’s presence.
Province have decided to back 19-year-old flyhalf Damian Willemse, and rightfully so. So just imagine how potent a halfback pairing Masimla and Willemse could have been, and how greatly the two of them, together, could have sparked stunning attacks for the Cape franchise.
And, of course, fielding the halfback pairing of Masimla and Willemse would have been a massive step forward, a victory in its own for transformation. And that would have been great. But Masimla just being a top scrumhalf, as he could have been in South Africa, on his own, would also have changed the landscape.
But besides the wonderful possibilities of a Willemse-Masimla duo, Masimla, on his own, has shown that he deserves credit as an individual. As a No 9.
Masimla is off to exciting things. He will get to light up the rugby stage in Europe. And that’s great for him. He deserves to get to do that.
But I think it could have been even better for Province, for the Stormers, for the Newlands faithful, if he could have done all of that right here in Cape Town.