The Ospreys confirmed today that they have secured the signing of South Africa scrum-half Ricky Januarie.
The 27-year old Springbok has agreed a three-month loan with the region, which has today been approved by the WRU, to provide emergency cover in the scrum-half position with all three named scrum-halves in the Ospreys European squad ruled out through long term injury.
Under the terms of the new participation agreement, the governing body needed to rubber-stamp the addition of a non-Welsh qualified player, with the Ospreys already boasting the full complement of six in the current squad.
And under ERC rules, Heineken Cup sides can name an "additional player" each round, providing one player is removed from their nominated squad. This means Januarie is eligible for selection when the Ospreys take on Viadana in Rounds three and four of the elite European competition.
With Mike Phillips likely to be missing for another three months after suffering ligament damage to the distal tib/fib joint, Jamie Nutbrown suffering from damaged posterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament damage and Tom Isaacs ruled out for the season after a shoulder operation, Shane Williams has been left as the only possible scrum-half cover in the Heineken Cup squad. Under tournament regulations, the Ospreys are allowed to make one change to their nominated squad during the pool stage. Young scrum-half Rhys Webb is still making the first tentative steps back from a lengthy lay-off following shoulder and ACL reconstructions in the spring and is still some way from full fitness, forcing the Ospreys to look outside of the squad for cover.
Januarie, who has 40 caps for South Africa, will arrive in the region at the start of December, ahead of the Viadana fixtures on December 12th and 19th after the region today received WRU approval. Playing his rugby this year for Stormers in the Super 14 and Western Province in the Currie Cup, he made his Springbok debut against Uruguay in June 2005, with his last cap coming as recently as September, when he featured off the bench in South Africa's 32-29 win in New Zealand to round off a successful Tri Nations for the 'Boks. He also featured in the first test against the Lions in June, which finished 26-21 to South Africa.
Andrew Hore, Ospreys Elite Performance Director, explained:
"We have moved to secure Ricky's services because of the exceptional circumstances we face at scrum half at this moment in time. We had strengthened in this position during the summer, with the addition to the squad of two young, Welsh, scrum halves to complement the players already on the books, but with three of our scrum halves now ruled out with long term injuries, another some way from the levels of fitness required to be involved in such an intense competition, and an additional young Welsh scrum half in Liam Davies still developing, we have been left with little option but to look outside of the squad.
"December and January is a particularly tough period in the rugby calendar. It is make or break time in terms of European competition, and the possibility of securing a home quarter-final, and also, as far as our hopes of securing a top four position in the Magners League. The intensity of these games reaches almost test-match level with the Heineken Cup fixtures and a busy schedule of Welsh derbies, and it is clear that this is not the time to take risks.
"Throwing in a young player ahead of schedule, in terms of their return from injury or their own personal development, could be detrimental to both them individually, and to the Ospreys and Welsh rugby. The last thing we want to do is to use a player who isn't ready for the intensity of the Heineken Cup rugby and set them back some way. We remain committed to the development of local, young, Welsh talent, but our considered opinion is that on this occasion, the best course of action for us is to look outside of the region for an experienced, battle hardened scrum half who is ready to step into the intensity of Heineken Cup battle.
"There will still be plenty of opportunities for Rhys and Liam to get game time during the Magners League over this period, but we feel strongly that this isn't the time of year to over rely on our younger players. We have obligations to our fantastic supporters and stakeholders to perform as strongly as possible.
"Ricky Januarie certainly fits the bill. He is a proven performer at the top level of the game, and he is really up for it. Having just missed out on the Springboks' European tour squad, he wants to come to Ospreylia and send out a message, before returning home to join up with the Stormers for the new Super 14 season. We are grateful to the WRU for their understanding of the current situation, and we look forward to Ricky joining the squad for training next week, ahead of the Viadana matches."
The Half a Game initiative is currently sweeping across Wales and proving a major success. The scheme aims to give every young player at least half a game every weekend. WRU TV recently visited a festival in Narberth where clubs have fully embraced the initiative.
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