Heineken Cup: Terblanche on mission to spark Ulster
Stefen Terblanche oozes class on the rugby field. And self-assured confidence off it.
He is a man at ease with himself, the world and his place in it.
Just now that happens to be Belfast, Terblanche having answered Ulster’s SOS in the wake of New Zealander Jared Payne rupturing an Achilles tendon in only his third appearance for the province.
Initially Terblanche — capped 37 times for the Springboks — has enlisted for three months. But if Ulster manage to make the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup the 36-year-old all-rounder — like Payne, at home in the centre, on the wing or at full-back — could be around for longer.
The fact that he and Ulster were prepared to battle through six weeks of red tape and that his wife and their three children — aged six, four and three-and-half months — are on their way to Belfast, too, suggests they feel his stint here will not necessarily end in late January.
“If there’s an opportunity and both parties are happy then I’m sure I’d be happy to stay a little bit longer,” he said.
As for the delay in getting here, he explained: “The visa wasn’t the problem; the British High Commission in South Africa did very well and I got that within three days. But I had to write an English exam to qualify for the Tier Two Sportsperson visa.”
Terblanche has a teaching degree, he lived in Wales for four years when he played for Ospreys, he has a British National Insurance number and driving licence. But it didn’t matter.
“Seventy points is the most you can get. You get 30 points for a letter from the club saying you’ve got a job and that they sponsor you. I think it’s only 10 points for the English test, but unfortunately you have to do it.
“I had to wait a week to do the test, another two for the results and then another week for the official results to reach me by mail.”
Contrary to suggestions he planned to retire after the Currie Cup final in which he skippered Sharks to a 42-16 loss by the Golden Lions, super-fit Terblanche revealed he always intended to continue a little longer.
“I always said I wanted to play a little bit more,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate as far as injuries and sore bodies are concerned so I think I can still play a little bit though I may just have to work harder some times.”
Asked how he came to join Ulster, he said: “I just got a phone-call from Johann (Muller) one afternoon to say that Jared Payne had a serious injury. He told me to give David Humphreys a call.
“I spoke to David about it, he said there was a possibility and they’d look into it. That was basically it — done over the phone in a couple of minutes.
“I had to give him an answer, obviously, as they were looking for a player — full-back or outside-back — and within two days I’d reached a decision with my wife.
“I think it was just a week before the semi-final of the Currie Cup when I got the call completely out of the blue.”
Thus when he lined out in the final two stages of the Currie Cup, he knew he was joining Ulster.
He also revealed that even if fellow-Springboks Muller, Ruan Pienaar and Pedrie Wannenburg had not been here, he would have come anyway.
“I would have made that decision even there weren’t any South Africans here. I enjoy coming to different countries and getting to know different people and different ways of life. It’s a good experience,” he said.
“It’s very exciting. My family are arriving in two weeks’ time so although it’s just a short-term contract we’re very excited and want to learn more.”
Clearly he is delighted to be here. And Ulster are equally happy that he is.