GARTH APRIL: Looking to revive his career in Japan

GARTH APRIL: Looking to revive his career in Japan

August 10, 2018 3 By Shafiek Mouton

10 August 2018 10h43

GARTH April is undoubtedly one of the most talented rugby players in the country. He has a good stepping game, sheer pace, a good pass off both hands, kicks well out of hand and at the poles (83% success rate) and the uncanny ability to identify and attack space. Yes, sure, naysayers will point out that he doesn’t make too many offensive tackles and does make the occasional howler but that is the case with many ex-factor players.

He recently joined the NTT Communications Shining Arcs in Japan on a 6 month deal after 4 years at the Sharks. He spoke exclusively to from Ichikawa (about 20km’s from Tokyo) in a telephonic interview.

“I’m happy to be here and revive my career. I enjoyed my four years in Durban and the Sharks will always have a special place in my heart. I represented the Sharks in 23 Super Rugby, 24 Currie Cup and 12 SuperSport Challenge games but it’s time for me to move on and seek greener pastures,” the 27 year old said.

Since the arrival of Robert du Preez Jnr from the Stormers at the beginning of 2018, April fell out of favour with Robert du Preez Snr, the Sharks coach, who preferred playing his son at flyhalf and Curwin Bosch (and sometimes even wing Lwazi Mvovo) at fullback. April was relugated to play for the Sharks XV in the SuperSport Challenge and only featured in 1 Super Rugby game in 2018 – the away game against the Rebels in Melbourne (the Sharks lost 14-46) where he replaced du Preez after 62 minutes and had an assist in inside centre, Marius Louw’s try.

TRY TIME: April celebrates a Sharks try with Bosch. Pic: Gallo

TRY TIME: April celebrates a Sharks try with Bosch.
Pic: Gallo Images

There were also reports of April’s discipline (or lack thereof) off the field letting him down on a few occasions and that may have played a role in him being left in the cold. “I don’t think it comes down to a lack of discipline. Yes, I have made mistakes and made a few errors in judgment but I’m human and humans make mistakes. I am older and wiser now and I’ve learned from my mistakes,” April, who prefers playing flyhalf but doesn’t mind playing at fullback, said.

Born in Wellington in the Boland, he was always one of those multi talented kids that could do virtually anything on a sports field from a young age. He excelled in rugby, cricket and athletics and was always earmarked to become a professional sportsman. “I went to watch rugby at Pelican Park as a toddler with my folks and just wanted to play and kick my miniature rugby ball. I don’t think I really understood what was going on but rugby and that little ball made me happy. I started playing in primary schooI and made the Boland Cravenweek teams whilst at St Albans Primary and was lured to attend high school at Paarl Gym.

FOCUSSED: April is ready for Japan. Pic: IOL

FOCUSSED: April is ready for Japan. Pic: IOL

Things didn’t work out for me there and after two years I went to Bergrivier High in Wellington where I was much happier. I also joined Roses United (Boland club) as a 16 year old and I soon found myself playing in the first team. We had a great team which included Cornal Hendricks, who went on to play for the Boks and other provincial stars in my elder brother Brendon, Franzel September and Jacquin Jansen.

The team and the coaches backed me and that gave me confidence. One of my greatest games came against Wesbank at Pelican Park and we had to win to qualify for the (then) Club Champs. I was playing at fullback and was untouchable that day. I managed to score a hat trick of tries which included one from my own dead ball line. I was supposed to kick for touch but was under immense pressure, stepped and started running. I ran through their whole team and the Roses Faithful went mad!”

That same year (2008) I was selected for the Boland U/18 Craven Week as well as the SA Schools side before I was offered a scholarship at Florida High in Johannesberg and moved to Gauteng.”

NIMMBLE FEET: Eluding the tackles of the Stormer's Siya Kolisi and Nizaam Carr

NIMBLE FEET: Eluding the tackles of the Stormers’ Siya Kolisi and Nizaam Carr

He then played Craven Week for the Lions and made the SA Schools team again and played age group rugby for the Lions. He made the SA U/20 side and was riding the crest of the wave before the one injury after the other struck. “First I had a shoulder operation and was out for 6 months. Came back, played two games and had to undergo another operation – out for another 6 months again and it started getting to me. I eventually started the 2012 season without injuries and played Vodacom Cup and for the U/21’s.

My contract expired and I wasn’t offered a renewal so I returned home to Wellington. I signed a 1 year deal with the Boland Cavaliers and I was happy to be home. But, disaster struck in just my 4th game. I tore knee ligaments and was sidelined for another 9 months. My contract came to an end and I wasn’t offered a new deal – I thought it was the end of the road and was ready to give up. But, I recovered from my knee injury and joined Durbell Rugby Club and believe it or not, in my first game for the second team I did my hamstring. I was down and out.

Brendon (who played with Garth for Roses, Boland and Durbell, and also represented the Valke and the Griffons) motivated me not to quit and I got up again.”

MOTIVATOR: Brendon April in the colours of the Boland Cavaliers. Pic: sport24

MOTIVATOR: Brendon April in the colours of the Boland Cavaliers. Pic: sport24

It was at this stage that April found his mojo again and was soon running riot in Durbell’s number 10 jumper. They went all the way to the Community Cup (the Gold Cup today) final and he played a pivotal role in them winning the cup by scoring their opening try in the final (Brendon got on the score sheet too) and slotting a long range penalty close to the final whistle to take the game 31-30 against Rustenberg Impala in their back yard.

“The Gold Cup was the catalyst which revived my career. After all my previous setbacks, I was literally just playing for the enjoyment of the game and to stay injury free. Gold Cup 2015 was one of my best rugby experiences ever and I managed to win the young player of the tournament award. It rejuvenated me. I am forever indebted to Durbell and Gold Cup,” he said.

ELATION: April after the final whistle in the Community Cup. pic: Facebook

ELATION: April after the final whistle in the Community Cup. Pic: Facebook

Soon after the tournament he was selected to play for Western Province in the Vodacom Cup before he was snatched away by the Sharks. He played 7 Currie Cup at the back end of the 2015 season before making his Super Rugby debut in 2016.

He had a very good tournament and was the first name to be called out when new Springbok coach, Alister Coetzee, announced his very first Bok training squad. However, April wasn’t capped and was instead relugated to play for the SA “A” team against the England Saxons in Bloemfontein.

“I still dream about wearing the green and gold. It’s every player’s dream to don that jersey. I got to play for the A side and singing the anthem in front of a big crowd was the best feeling ever, I was so proud. I am in Japan now and hopefully when I return to SA to play Super Rugby I can work my way back into the Bok mix again.”

GREEN AND GOLD: April and Willie le Roux at Springbok training. Pic: Getty Images

GREEN AND GOLD: April and Willie le Roux at Springbok training. Pic: Getty Images

April wasn’t willing to let the cat out of the bag and divulge where exactly he will be playing Super Rugby next year though and just said that nothing had been confirmed at this stage. Although he has fallen behind the likes of Handre Pollard, Damian Willemse, Elton Jantjies and du Preez in the flyhalf pecking order, if he can knuckle down in Japan, be backed at his new Super Rugby franchise in 2019 and eliminate the off field issues, he may very well still fulfill that green and gold dream of his…

Headline picture: