SARugbymag.co.za identifies six of the best and worst foreign players to play for South African franchises.
Frederick Michalak (Sharks 2008, 2011-12)
A mercurial playmaker in his own right, Michalak was one of the biggest cult heroes French rugby has ever produced and arguably the best foreign import at a South African franchise. He played for the Sharks over two stints. Michalak initially signed on to join the Durban-based side for the 2008 season, before returning to the union in 2011 until the end of the 2012 campaign.
He was part of the Currie Cup-winning squad in 2008, featured in the team that finished as Currie Cup runners-up in 2011 and played an influential role in the Sharks’ shock Super Rugby semi-final win over the Stormers at Newlands in 2012 with a 16-point contribution via two penalties, two conversions and two drop goals.
Ultimately, he scored a whopping 339 points in just 57 games for the Sharks.
Tony Brown (Sharks 2006, Stormers 2008)
Dick Muir recruited the veteran All Black for the Sharks in 2006 and the signing proved to be a masterstroke.
Brown was at the centre of the Sharks’ resurgence that season, as they reached the semi-final stage in the Currie Cup. In his short eight-game spell, Brown contributed 73 points.
In 2008, he signed for the Stormers but couldn’t reproduce the form that made him a hit in Durban.
Hadleigh Parkes (Kings 2013)
Parkes linked up with the Kings in 2013 for their maiden Super Rugby campaign. He made his debut in their second match of the season against the Sharks and then started in their next three games. But his campaign was cut short when he was ruled out for three months after he broke his arm in an away game against the Hurricanes.
Parkes recovered in time to play in their last game of the regular season and also in their promotion-relegation clash with the Lions. In addition to that, he made two Currie Cup appearances for the Kings before his departure that year.
Parkes went on to play for the Scarlets in the PRO14 and ultimately became a Wales international player.
Todd Clever (Lions 2009-10)
Clever became the first American to play Super Rugby when he joined the Lions in 2009.
Although the Lions team was struggling during his spell at Ellis Park, Clever was an entertaining player who won the affection of the crowd with his no-nonsense, tough-guy persona and his ability to play like a backline player in his effective loose-forward role.
The USA captain played 32 times for the Lions in Super Rugby and the Currie Cup combined and scored three tries.
Carlos Spencer (Lions 2010)
When the Lions recruited Spencer in 2010, he was already 34 years old and in the sunset of his career.
The move wasn’t well received by the rugby public and Spencer’s erratic performances didn’t help sway support his way. He played 14 matches for the Lions, scoring just 17 points.
Spencer later became a coach at the Lions, where he famously served as mentor to Elton Jantjies.
Sireli Naqelevuki (WP/Stormers 2006-2010)
A polarising figure in Cape rugby circles, if ever there was one. When the bulking Fijian signed for the Stormers, there was great optimism about his recruitment and what he would bring to the team.
Unfortunately, the promise of his talents and what he delivered were far removed. There were glimpses of excellence on his part, scoring some superb tries. But, ultimately, his below-par fitness level and consistency meant he was more of a miss than a hit in Cape Town.
His most notorius moment was in the 2009 Currie Cup semi-final between Western Province and the Blue Bulls when he conceded a penalty which Morne Steyn slotted late in the game, handing the visitors a 21-19 win at Newlands.
Photo: Gallo Images