Former Baby Bok Ward's new mission after Sharks
PREVIEW: Former South Africa Under-20 captain Jeremy Ward said he is “finding his feet” at Stade Francais less than a month after arriving in France before hosting Brive in the Top 14 on Saturday.
Ward, 26, led his country’s under-20 side in 2016 and joined the Parisians in September after six years with the Sharks.
“I felt stepping into a new environment was something that could get the best out of me as a rugby player,” Ward told AFP on Thursday.
“I’ve only been here three weeks but I’m starting to find my feet in the club,” he added.
The midfielder has arrived in the French capital after a season where the 14-time champions’ stalwart in Fiji’s Waisea Nayacalevu and former New Zealand centre Ngani Laumape left.
“The pink shirts stand out more than anything,” Ward said.
“The club has such a rich history, it has an incredible background, it’s known throughout the world so when they did come calling I was really excited by it,” he added.
At Stade Jean-Bouin, the home to the outfit founded in 1891, Ward has teamed up with two former teammates.
Former Sharks lock JJ van der Mescht, who scored his third try in two games during last Saturday’s dramatic late win at Pau arrived last season while scrumhalf James Hall is in his fourth campaign after signing his first senior deal with the Southern Kings alongside Ward.
“It’s nice to be playing back with James,” Ward said.
“We were roommates the years after school and at South Africa’s U20s so we’ve come a long way. It’s a cool reunion we have here,” he added.
‘Fired up’ Brive
Ward has yet to make the set up to the Springboks’ senior side and the Grey High School graduate said his focus is on his new side.
“All my energy right now is heading through Stade Francais, settling in, playing the rugby that I’m capable of,” he said.
“Get a good consistent run of games and I can only hope that my form can pick up and my ability will take care of the rest,” he added.
This weekend, Ward is set to face the 1997 European champions, who sacked coach Jeremy Davidson after two heavy losses and replaced him with their lineout specialist Arnaud Mela.
“We’re expecting Brive to be fired up for the game and to be really motivated as well,” Ward said.
“Changes can do that, they can motivate you. They’ll come with all their might, all we can do is make sure we’re ready for that,” he added.
Elsewhere, Racing 92 host champions Montpellier days after flyhalf Finn Russell was omitted from Scotland’s November Tests squad.
On Sunday, there is a repeat of 2021’s domestic and European finals as Toulouse welcome La Rochelle.
France flyhalf Romain Ntamack has returned to training for the record 21-time champions after suffering an ankle injury in mid-September in positive news for Les Bleus head coach Fabien Galthie before next month’s Tests.
(All times are GMT)
Racing 92 v Montpellier (13.00)
Lyon v Pau (15.00)
Bayonne v Perpignan (15.00)
Toulon v Castres (15.00)
Stade Francais v Brive (15.00)
Clermont v Bordeaux-Begles (19.05)
Toulouse v La Rochelle (19.05)