Western Province are on the lookout for a world-class flyhalf, and could be willing to explore beyond South African borders, writes Craig Lewis.
According to a report on Netwerk24 on Monday, former All Blacks flyhalf Lima Sopoaga is the candidate who could be in the crosshairs as WP target an experienced signing to bolster their backline options.
SARugbymag.co.za has also independently confirmed there is a recruitment exploration on the go to add depth at flyhalf with a high-calibre player who could also mentor youngsters such as Kade Wolhuter, Chris Schreuder and Abner van Reenen.
It’s believed looking at someone like Sopoaga is not beyond the realms of possibility, and it would be a high-profile recruitment that could provide some much-needed good news after a rumour-laden period of players potentially heading out of Cape Town.
Yet, there remains an enduring hope that WP will be able to retain the majority of their player squad from last year, and that there will be no mass exodus following the departure of captain Siya Kolisi.
Looking to sign Sopoaga may seem like a long shot at face value, but it would be a considerable coup if they were able to lure the 30-year-old to Cape Town from England, where he is currently based.
Sopoaga left New Zealand in 2017 to join Wasps when he was still considered to be very much part of the All Blacks’ plans, having been a key performer for the Highlanders as they went on to win the 2015 Super Rugby title.
His move to Wasps wasn’t an instant success, and he has spoken openly about the struggles to find his best form after initially battling to settle in at the English club.
However, he had begun to find his mojo just before the Premiership was first halted due to coronavirus last year, and interestingly was impressive at fullback.
At that time back in 2020, Sopoaga was said to be locked in for one more year with Wasps, and it will be interesting to see whether a move to WP could be considered as a realistic possibility later this year.
Just recently, he spoke of being in a very good space mentally, and how much he was interested in taking on a mentorship role down the line.
‘I was blessed to have some wicked mentors. Those guys told me, “One day, you will be in this position”, and they asked that I do the same for a young kid coming up. They were right. I am now in this position and it would be a disservice to those who helped me on in my career if I did not pass on what I know.’
If Sopoaga were to conclude a deal with WP, it’s likely that he would only arrive towards the second half of the year, but his northern-hemisphere experience is another plus factor as more South African teams move into the PRO16.
Sopoaga’s ability to play at fullback and flyhalf is also of value, although it would be interesting to see how he’d be deployed with Damian Willemse should the Springbok youngster opt to remain with WP.
Willemse has been widely linked with the Vodacom Bulls, but there has been no confirmation on that front one way or another.
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