Force sign eighth South African

Date published: January 9 2014

The Western Force has completed its 2014 squad with the signing of Natal Sharks back-rower Brynard Stander for the next two years.

The Western Force has completed its 2014 squad with the signing of Natal Sharks back-rower Brynard Stander for the next two years.

Stander's recruitment continues the club's move away from a reliance on Australia's east coast-based player pool, with the 23-year-old becoming the eighth South African player in the extended squad.

He joins fellow senior squad members Wilhelm Steenkamp (Bulls), Chris Heiberg and Marcel Brache (both Western Province), and Wider Training Group members Dillyn Leyds, Dylan Sage and Francois van Wyk (all Western Province) as newcomers to the Force.

Fly-half Sias Ebersohn, formerly of the Cheetahs, returns for his second season with the Western Australian club.

Stander joins the Western Force as an abrasive and physical back-rower, who can play either side of the scrum or at number eight.

He progressed through the Sharks development program, representing the Natal at Under 19 and Under 21 levels, before spending the past two seasons in the coastal province's Vodacom and Currie Cup squads.

Last year he was crowned Forward of the Year in the Sharks' Vodacom Cup squad and was a member of the Sharks squad that won the Currie Cup, defeating Western Province, 33-19, in the final.

Stander says he's excited about pushing for a Super Rugby debut with the Western Force.

“What excites me is being a part of this team that has so much potential,” said Stander.

“I've seen a lot of fire and team spirit from the boys already and I think everyone wants to do their best for their mate alongside them which is so important for being successful.

“I've seen in the past how there can be a talented team but if you're not playing for each other and if players are trying to do their own thing individually then it falls apart. The massive strength here is that the boys are so gelled and wanting to play for each other.”

Force boss Michael Foley says Stander will bring additional physicality to the squad in 2014.

“Brynard is a player who rolls his sleeves up on the field and has shown he's hungry for opportunities” said Foley.

“He's strong in contact – both with the ball and in defence.”

The 2014 Western Force squad will feature a six Perth-produced players – the most the club has ever boasted at any one time.

Returning Western Australians Zack Holmes (fly-half) and Dane Haylett-Petty (outside back) will join incumbents Kieran Longbottom and Kyle Godwin, and rising stars Ryan Louwrens and Luke Burton, who have both been promoted from the RugbyWA Academy, in the 35-man squad. Fellow Perth products Ollie Hoskins and Brad Lacey will also be a part of the extended squad as members of the club's Wider Training Group.

The 2014 squad features seven Test internationals (Nick Cummins, Ben McCalman, Hugh McMeniman, Matt Hodgson, Luke Morahan, Pek Cowan and Alby Mathewson) with Cummins, McCalman, McMeniman and Hodgson all re-committing to the club for the 2014 and 2015 seasons last year.

Head Coach Michael Foley says he's pleased with the intent and commitment of the squad throughout the pre-season.

“We've maintained a core group of players from last season and added a number of new members who bring both skill and attitude to the team,” added Foley.

“This team has continued to work extremely hard throughout the pre-season and there is a genuine hunger and desire to achieve more this season.”