/Welsh legend Roberts struck by special Newlands

Welsh legend Roberts struck by special Newlands

2020-01-24 08:36

Cape
Town – He has 97 Test
caps, has played in two British
& Irish Lions tours and two Rugby
World Cups, but 33-year-old Jamie
Roberts
 is far from done with seeking new experiences from
the game he has been playing professionally since 2005. 

The Welsh centre is the latest
addition to John Dobson’s Stormers,
having received a message from the coach of New Year’s Day saying he had
cracked the nod to make the trip south. 

Roberts, a qualified medical
doctor, had his first run on the Newlands turf on Wednesday and while the
conditions were noticeably different from the sluggish, heavy pitches he is
used to, he felt right at home immediately. 

A Test recall is not something he
has ruled out just yet, but the priority right now is to spend the next few
months helping the Stormers win their first ever Super Rugby title in what is
their final season at their iconic stadium. 

“When I first walked out at
Newlands yesterday and saw the terraces at the end of the ground … it’s a
special place,” Roberts told media after another hit-out at Newlands on
Thursday.

“You immediately feel part
of that history when you see the jerseys on the walls of all the famous players
who have played here in the past.”

Having featured in top-tier
European rugby for nearly 15 years, most recently at Bath in the English
Premiership, this move is obviously not about money for Roberts. 

Instead, he is looking for an
opportunity to experience something different from the game he has devoted his
life to. 

“It depends what you define
as lucrative. For me, lucrative is about experience. It’s not about
money,” he said.

“South Africa, for me,
having toured here around 10 times … coming to South Africa is special.

“Rugby runs in the veins of
people here … it’s a religion.”

At his best, Roberts is a player
with a natural burst of pace and an ability to slip through tackles. He is,
after all, 6 ft 4 in and a physically imposing specimen. 

Having watched Super Rugby since
he was a child, though, Roberts is fully aware that the next few months will
give him a challenge that he has not yet encountered in his career. 

“Super Rugby is different to
northern hemisphere rugby. It’s quicker, you play higher, you see a lot more
passing and it’s a more open game,” he said.

“I have to adapt my game to
be a success here. There is no doubt about that. You’re never too old to
learn.”

Dobson was on the hunt for a
centre with experience, to primarily help win games of rugby but also to
provide guidance to what the coach believes is “one of the most exciting
halfback pairings in world rugby” in the form of World Cup winners
Herschel Jantjies and Damian Willemse.

With Damian de Allende now
playing his rugby out of Japan, Roberts immediately becomes the most senior No
12 at the union even though he is new to South Africa. 

He is already embracing his role
as a mentor to the younger players in the squad and had particularly kind words
for Willemse. 

“He’s light on his feet. I
think he’s stepped me about three times in training already,” Roberts
said.

“He’s an enthusiastic young
man with all the tools to really shine at this club and at international level,
without a doubt.

“I’m a big believer that
your younger players learn far more from their senior players than they ever do
a coach.

“That’s how I felt as a
younger player, so when you become a senior player there is a huge
responsibility.”

Roberts won’t have to wait long
to experience Newlands on game day, either, with the Stormers at home to the
Hurricanes for their season opener on February 1.

“I’ve never experienced a
welcome like this at a club and it’s been quite humbling,” he said. 

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