There has been one pertinent question asked by Stormers supporters this week: Shaun who?
The Capetonians surprised many on Monday when they confirmed New Zealander Shaun Treeby, a 28-year-old former Highlanders centre, had joined them on a four-month contract.
Injuries to three of the Stormers’ international centres – Damian de Allende, Juan de Jongh and Huw Jones (Scotland) – had forced their hand.
Gert Smal, the union’s director of rugby, had previously stated the side wanted an experienced part-timer.
Yet it was widely expected that the Stormers’ would’ve poached a local player.
That search proved fruitless.
“We did look within South Africa and even within our own provincial border but the type of experience we needed wasn’t there,” Robbie Fleck, the Stormers coach, insisted on Tuesday.
“We lost a lot of experience when that trio got injured. Shaun is exactly what we’re looking for. He’s experienced at Super Rugby level, having played 50 times for the Highlanders.”
Strictly speaking the Stormers did actually have a South African candidate in mind after they approached JJ Engelbrecht.
But the former Springbok centre’s career has fizzled out badly in the past few years.
“We looked at him,” said Fleck.
“And decided not to pursue him further for various reasons.”
However, there need not be a worry that the previously unemployed Treeby’s recruitment will block the development of the Stormers’ promising young centres.
The pairing of 21-year-old EW Viljoen and 22-year-old Dan du Plessis have already shown themselves to be capable of handling the challenge of Super Rugby.
As a result, Treeby will have to be satisfied with a mentorship role.
“There are only three fit centres in our group and they only boast a handful of caps,” said Fleck.
“We want him to provide leadership to the rookies. The thinking is also that if we were to get another centre injured, we would need to bring in a replacement immediately.”