Welsh legend Jamie Roberts says it will be a special privilege to “contribute to the fantastic rugby culture” in the Western Cape after signing for the Stormers for the 2020 Super Rugby season.
The Cape franchise made the announcement on Thursday, with Roberts coming in to fill the void left by Springbok centre Damian de Allende, who is playing in Japan.
Roberts, 33, has 97 Test caps (94 for Wales and three for the British and Irish Lions), and has played at club level in Wales, France and England. He is currently at English side Bath, and is set to arrive in Cape Town next Wednesday.
“It has long been a goal of mine to play in the Southern Hemisphere and I cannot think of a better place to do so than in the Western Cape, where people are so passionate about their rugby and also staying in Cape Town, which is such an amazing city,” Roberts said in a statement.
“While I am looking forward to wearing the shirt, my key drive is to perform on the pitch, win week-in week-out, and to help to drive success.
“Having toured South Africa with my school, Sevens, club and Wales National Team, then playing in the 2009 British and Irish Lions series as a young player which was a highlight in my career, to spend some time down here and contribute to the fantastic rugby culture will be a special privilege. "Every time I have been to South Africa, it has always struck me as a beautiful country with rugby at its heart, which reminds me very much of home. It feels very special to be able to come and play rugby in South Africa.”
Stormers coach John Dobson believes Roberts can play a key role in also mentoring young backs such as centres Rikus Pretorius and Dan du Plessis, as well as halfbacks Damian Willemse and Herschel Jantjies.
“Jamie’s record and reputation speaks for itself, but I am particularly excited to see the impact that he will have on the likes of talented players such as Damian Willemse, Dan du Plessis, Rikus Pretorius and Lyle Hendricks, who will be able to soak up so much from playing alongside him,” Dobson said.
“He is renowned around the world for his professionalism and we are all looking forward to the impact he will have here.”
Stormers assistant coach Dawie Snyman said at a media briefing in Bellville on Thursday that he was not sure if Roberts would be ready for the opening Super Rugby game against the Hurricanes at Newlands on February 1.
“He will arrive next week Wednesday, and we will see if we can get him up to speed. It was important to get him. We tried to keep Damian (de Allende) at one stage, but unfortunately we couldn’t. He brings a lot and I thought he had a great World Cup. To fill his boots would be tricky,” Snyman said.
“We tried one or two options, which is why we brought in Jamie. But we are backing the guys in the position. Rikus can definitely do the job, although he is a youngster, and hopefully Dan can get over his injuries as he has shown he can fulfil that role.
“Dan should be back towards the end of February, so he might miss the first three or four games.”
The Stormers will play two warm-up matches this weekend, against the Southern Kings on Friday night in Knysna (7pm) and the Sharks on Sunday at the FNB Stadium (1pm).