The Sharks have confirmed that JJ van der Mescht has been granted an early release in the hopes of the big lock finding “renewed motivation to work on his fitness and discipline” in France.
The burly second rower was schooled at Glenwood High in Durban and linked up with the Sharks straight out of school in 2018. He was part of the Sharks U19 team that won the U19 Rugby Championship that same year. His last outing in a Sharks jersey was against the British & Irish Lions a week ago.
Blessed with size and natural strengths, big things have always been expected of Van der Mescht, but the 22-year-old has battled to solidify a frontline starting role in the Sharks senior team.
SARugbymag.co.za understands that the Sharks had begun to grow exasperated as Van der Mescht repeatedly failed to reach conditioning targets set by the medical team.
With the Durban-based side set to join the United Rugby Championship later this year, squad requirements have been carefully reviewed of late, with a priority placed on ensuring a well-balanced squad is capable of competing in what is set to be a highly demanding northern-hemisphere competition.
It’s now been confirmed that Van der Mescht has been released from his contract to join Stade Francais in France, by mutual agreement and with immediate effect.
Sharks CEO Eduard Coetzee wished Van der Mescht well.
“We are obviously very disappointed to lose a young player with JJ’s ability. He has immense potential, and we hope that this move to France gives him renewed motivation to work on his fitness and discipline. Our best wishes are extended to him for this next chapter in his career.”
Commenting on his move, Van der Mescht said: “It was great at the Sharks, but I am really excited to move on and play in France and learn from new coaches and players that will make me a better player.”
It’s been reported that Van der Mescht has signed a three-year deal with the French club until the end of the 2024 season, with Stade Francais having apparently been hunting for his signature for some time and potentially with a long-term plan to qualify him to play for the France national side.