A big, bustling second row forward who lined out against Munster in the Champions Cup earlier this year will now find a base in Limerick with his new European club. He’s a player with a bit of history.
Gerbrandt Grobler arrives from Racing 92 after plying his trade in Paris for a year, shortly after completing a two-year suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.
Yesterday, Munster Rugby named Grobler alongside another South African, flanker Chris Cloete, as new signings for the upcoming season.
As at Racing 92, the 25-year-old is on a 12-month contract, while Cloete has been handed a three-year deal.
Although current Munster head coach Rassie Erasmus is about to return to South Africa, it’s clear he had an influential role in attracting the players to Ireland. Grobler will join Munster immediately, while Cloete’s arrival will be delayed until the completion of his Currie Cup commitments.
Southern Kings and Pumas flanker Cloete, 26, has made 21 appearances for the Port Elizabeth Super Rugby side, scoring six tries, and has enjoyed a standout season in 2017.
He has been described as a powerful loose forward that excels at the breakdown and his form this last season propelled him into the South African A side, where he played a leading role in the 48-28 win over the French Barbarians.
Grobler played 20 times last season for Racing, including a start against Munster in he Champions Cup. He scored five tries in that time.
The imposing second row previously represented Western Province in the Currie and Vodacom Cups, and played Super Rugby with the Stormers.
His past is, he asserted in a recent interview in South Africa, very much in the past. He was handed a two-year suspension after testing positive for drostanolone, an anabolic-androgenic steroid.
“I have a glass-half-full approach to life,” he told SA Rugby Magazine. “If something bad happens in life you have a choice: You can let it affect you, or you pick yourself up and go forward.”
“I was broken” he says, reflecting on the ban. “You lose your house, your car, you lose everything. I lost 90% of my friends.
“I was 21 at the time, young and stupid, and struggling with serious ankle and shoulder injuries. They weren’t getting any better, and I knew I needed to start playing again or I could lose my contract. I had my back against the wall and had reached a point where I thought, ‘OK, I’ve done all I can, so what else can I do?’”
He went on: “I blew up pretty badly and lost myself, then one day I looked in the mirror and said, ‘You have to make this work for you’.”
Advice from one of the great South African rugby legends Schalk Burger was at hand. “He told me not to give up and to turn the suspension into a positive.”
“It made me a better person. It made me realise what a small world professional rugby players live in.”
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