After being the first South African to join the Western Force, many of Sias Ebersohn’s countrymen have now joined him the west.
The Bloemfontein-born flyhalf is now one of eight from the Rainbow Nation with the Force – including former Bulls lock Wilhelm Steenkamp, Sharks back row forward Brynard Stander, along with the Western Province quintet of Marcel Brache, Chris Heiberg, Dillyn Leyds, Dylan Sage and Francois van Wyk.
The South Africans flavour reflects the franchise’s new approach to recruitment as a move away from a reliance on Australia’s east coast-based player pool.
Steenkamp, 53 times Super Rugby capped and the Force’s second international marquee player alongside Alby Mathewson, joins the franchise for Ebersohn’s second year with the Force – with the pair actually related through marriage as second cousins.
“Wilhelm’s dad and my wife’s dad are cousins, so nothing directly to me but through my wife,” he said.
“We only figured that out when we played at the Cheetahs together.”
Despite being eight-and-a-half thousand kilometres away from South Africa, Ebersohn and his fellow ex-pats from across the Indian Ocean make sure to get a regular taste of home.
Ebersohn concedes that there has been more than one coincidental run-in with his teammates for a ‘boerie roll’ (a South African sausage on a long bread roll) on a Saturday morning at Cape to Cairo – a South African wholesaler in Osborne Park.
“We also braai together when we can but apart from that we fit the Perth culture,” he said.
“We like the beach like they do in South Africa as well. We don’t always have the opportunity back home – like in Bloemfontein where there’s no beach – so to have Perth as your franchise and as your beach is great!
“The only thing is that since the other players have joined and we’ve started talking Afrikaans with each other, my English has got worse!”
But while they enjoy socialising together off the field, Ebersohn indicates that there is a strong determination and understanding within the group as to why they are in Perth – with many Force players noticing an increase in physicality even at training since their arrival.
“When I came over they gave me an opportunity and that’s the biggest reason why I came to the Force,” he said.
“The boys that come here and know that if they work hard they’ll be rewarded with game time. That’s what it is all about – getting on the pitch.
“That’s the thing about the Force – if you perform and you do well, you get rewarded for it.
“We’ve got a great squad and there’s big competition in the team. Guys are challenging each other more for positions. We’ve had a really long pre-season without any games yet so conditioning wise, we’re in a good spot.”
And with the season just around the corner, Ebersohn is looking forward to once again having the opportunity to perform in front of a vocal Sea of Blue in 2014.
“While nib Stadium is smaller than the stadiums we have in South Africa, the fact that it is always packed and our supporters are motivated to come and see us has a massive influence in our game.”