The Emirates Western Force has injected additional size and experience into its forward pack from next season with the signing of Bulls lock Wilhelm Steenkamp.
The two-metre tight forward joins the Western Australian province for the 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons having previously represented the Bulls (35 caps), Sharks (five) and Cheetahs (13) – alongside Emirates Western Force flyhalf Sias Ebersohn – at Super Rugby level.
The former Emerging Springbok representative, who joins the Force on a foreign player contract, has six seasons of top-line provincial experience and 53 Super Rugby caps to his name.
The lofty second-rower was a run-on member of the Emerging Springboks side that drew 13-all with British & Irish Lions in Cape Town in 2009.
Steenkamp, whose younger brother De Kock is currently on contract with the Stormers, says he’s looking forward to continuing his Super Rugby career with the Emirates Western Force.
“What I like about the Force is that they’re a team that never gives up,” he said. “In all their games they’re in the game right up until the 80th minute. While the bounce of the ball may not have gone for them each time, they’re a team that always plays with passion and they play for each other.
“[Emirates Western Force Head Coach] Mike Foley is a new coach there and I think it’s the beginning of big things that are building there this year and onwards. I’ve spoken with him a couple of times, he’s played the game at the highest level and I’m really looking forward to working with him.
“I’ve also spoken to Sias every day on Skype since I started talking with the Force. He and I are good friends; he’s said I’ll really enjoy it over there and that Perth’s a great place.”
The 28-year-old says he still has a lot to offer the Emirates Western Force.
“I’m still keen to play Super Rugby and competitive rugby, and I’m at the stage of my career in South Africa with the Bulls that I’m looking for a new challenge,” he said. “I’ve now got the opportunity to keep playing at a high quality against Test players week in, week out which is why I was keen to join the Force.
“I feel like I can bring a lot of experience. I’ve played almost 60 games for the Bulls and captained the Cheetahs, and I’d like to bring that leadership and experience to the forward pack.
“I’ve worked under [former Springboks lock] Victor Matfield for the past seven or eight years and I feel like I can bring something with lineout calling and contesting. I’m a team man and I’d like to think that I can contribute on and off the field to help the team perform and be a tight unit.”
Foley says Steenkamp will be strong addition to the Emirates Western Force pack.
“To complement the existing strengths in our pack, we’re looking to introduce forwards that have excellent skills in the set piece as well as the ability to play with skill and physicality in the open” he said.
“Wilhelm is experienced at Super Rugby level and has forged a career in a culture that prides itself on the strength of its forward play.
“He brings with him a great deal of rugby knowledge, particularly around lineout play, and we’re looking forward to him making a valuable contribution to the side from next season.”
Name: Wilhelm Steenkamp
Born: 07/02/1985, Calvinia (RSA)
Super Rugby caps: 53
Super Rugby points: 5 (1t)
Representative Rugby: 2012-2013 Bulls, 2011 Cheetahs, 2010 Sharks, 2009 Emerging Springboks, 2007-2009 Bulls