‘Pros and cons’ for SA teams if they join Pro14, says Herbst

Wiehahn Herbst, who previously played for the Bulls, the Sharks and Ulster, joined the Lions during the lockdown. Picture: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

With a debate continuing behind the scenes, as South African rugby considers its next move in a potential shake-up for the sport, Wiehahn Herbst has compared the pros and cons of local teams staying in Super Rugby or heading to Europe.

It can be quite a culture shock competing in Europe, according to Herbst, but local players might have to take the good with the bad if plans proceed to explore the Pro14 market.

Herbst was one of several Lions players who had previously lived and played in Europe, along with fullback EW Viljoen, flank Jaco Kriel, hooker Jaco Visagie, eighthman Willem Alberts, lock Wilhelm van der Sluys, lock Marvin Orie and prop Jannie du Plessis.

With similar time zones and less travelling, Herbst felt there were benefits to playing in the Northern Hemisphere.

However, facing potential language barriers (depending where the game was played), he said it would be a new way of life for most SA players if they were based for periods in the north.

“If we have to go that side it could actually be good for our rugby to maybe get used to another type of game and a different culture,” said 32-year-old Herbst, who played 80 games for Irish side Ulster between 2014-19.

On a good day, however, Herbst said the conditions were not entirely different to the Super Rugby competition.

“It’s definitely not as quick as Super Rugby, but the days over there when the skies are clear and there’s no rain, the game is actually very similar to any Super Rugby game,” said Herbst, who previously also played for the Bulls and the Sharks.

He also believed the ruck and maul tactics which were traditionally used by SA teams could be used to their benefit in Europe.

“There is a bigger focus on the rucks and the set-pieces that side, while our South Africans like to adapt and to take challenges head-on,” he said.

After a five-month absence from the field, Herbst admitted he and his teammates were itching to get back to action, with a domestic competition on the cards next month.

“At the moment no-one really is concerned about what or where we play
as long as we can just play,” he said.

“Everyone is just looking forward to being on the field and playing the game we all love so much.”

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