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'One of the greatest Stormers of all time'

While there is no doubt that he is an icon at the Stormers, Brok Harris’ legendary status will be taken to another level when the South African franchise faces the Dragons this Friday.

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Harris, who played his 150th match for the Cape Town-based Stormers a fortnight ago, has also played 143 matches for the Dragons.

He is as iconic a figure at Newport’s Rodney Parade as he is in Cape Town, be that at the old Newlands Rugby Stadium or the new home, the plush Cape Town Stadium.

It can’t be lost on anyone that as the United Rugby Championship celebrates ‘Kids Round’, the biggest cheer at Rodney Parade on Friday night will be for the “grandpa” of the league, with Harris having gone past his 39th birthday and approaching the big 40.

The popular Harris is hosting an evening on Wednesday, May 8, billed as ”Brok Harris & Friends’ at Rodney Parade, where Harris and many of his teammates, from the Dragons and from within South Africa, will be entertaining locals with tales from his rich rugby journey.

Harris played seven seasons for the Dragons and returned to Cape Town to wind down. The opposite has been true and he is into his 58th match for the Stormers since saying goodbye to the Welsh side.

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When it comes to the Dragons supporters, rugby in the region and his love for the place, there will never be a goodbye for Harris, and this weekend’s trip is his most special in a packed diary.

It would not have been out of place for Harris to play the first 40 minutes for Dragons and the second 40 for the Stormers and for the occasion to be a Testimonial to a player who has been remarkable in the front row for both teams.

Few embody the essence of service and longevity like Stormers prop Harris who, at 39 years old, is inspiring his teammates on the park while simultaneously preparing to transition into the coaches’ box.

Harris has been a frontrow warhorse in the Stormers’ pack, shouldering not only the weight of the scrums, but also the mantle of leadership in a crucial run in the United Rugby Championship.

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With the Stormers pushing to seal a place in the URC’s top eight, Harris has kept on rumbling and in his past five matches is averaging 60-plus minutes a match.

When Harris parted ways with Dragons in June 2021, after a seven-year stint in Newport, the seasoned campaigner thought that was the end of his playing days.

After all, he was 36 and he’d put in a long shift at the scrumming coal-face.

Some three years later, he is a URC title winner and still going strong as a first-team regular with the Stormers.

In a season marked by the absence of key players and an injury crisis in the front row, the grizzled Harris has risen to the occasion, sharing the captaincy duties while being a conduit between management and players on match days.

Having lost Springbok prop Steven Kitshoff to a move to Ulster before the season got underway, the Stormers have also had all of Sti Sithole, Lizo Gqoboka, Ali Vermaak and Kwenzo Blose sidelined at the same time.

While so many of the Stormers’ props have fallen foul of injury this season, Harris has stood taller with each challenge, scrummed more powerfully and stayed on the park longer than players half his age.

His five straight starts, in the most recent five Stormers matches, included showdowns with Ulster and Edinburgh and a Champions Cup playoff against Stade Rochelais in Cape Town.

Pitted against international tighthead props in Ireland’s Tom O’Toole and Scotland’s WP Nel, Harris has more than held his own during this run and has continued to show the value of a wily veteran in the scrum.

“Brok, to my mind, is going to go down as one of the greatest Stormers of all time,” said head coach John Dobson.

“If you put up a Stormers Hall of Fame with 10 names, Brok would be up there with all the Springboks like Jean [de Villiers], Schalk [Burger] and Jaque [Fourie].

“He must be the most popular Stormer,” Dobson added.

“I never knew Brok, I hadn’t coached him because I was still with the juniors when he left to go to Wales. Being able to coach him and get to know him has been one of the highlights of my career.

“We are trying to persuade him to stay longer, but he may transition to coaching sooner than later. He is already assisting the under-20s, and leaves our practise as a player and slot straight into a scrum coaching role with the junior squad. It’s an incredible achievement.”

Harris’ role in helping to nurture tighthead Neethling Fouche – who attended his first Springbok camp in March – as well as up-and-comers Sazi Sandi, Lee-Marvin Mazibuko and Kwenzo Blose, underscores his commitment to paying it forward, ensuring the next generation of Stormers flourish beyond his tenure.

“I am so happy for my [roommate] Neethling to be part of the Springbok setup,” Harris said.

“He deserves it and I am proud to have formed a part of his journey into achieving his call-up to the alignment camp.

“As for Sazi, Lee-Marvin and Kwenzo, they have all grown tremendously under my mentorship, and I have no doubt that they have bright futures ahead of them.”

Harris’ passion for the sport and a desire to impart knowledge heralds a new chapter for him at the Stormers, after making his debut back in 2006.

“It has always been my plan to go into coaching and I am thankful for the opportunity to stand with one foot in the coaches’ box and the other one on the playing field.

“Having insight of what goes on in the coaching engine has been an eye-opener for me from a player’s perspective. I’ve been part of some of the coaching meetings and I am in awe of what really goes on behind the scenes from a detail and planning perspective.”

As it is, far from putting his feet up and watching the young guns have all the fun, the Potchefstroom-raised bruiser has discussed with Dobson the possibility of extending his career for one more season.

“My love for the game is what drives me.

“Playing my 150th marks me as the first Stormers player to reach the milestone and is a remarkable highlight in my career.”

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