South Africa U21 and Southern Spears eighth man, Ashley Johnson has finally secured a contract with the Vodacom Cheetahs.
Johnson was one of several Spears players who returned to from the U21 world championship with an uncertain future, as the South Eastern Cape franchise had been scrapped.
The powerful number eight had an impressive tournament in France; his good form keeping out Western Province’s Pieter Louw, who won the trophy with South Africa in Argentina last year.
â€œAshley is the only number eight in South Africa who is capable of taking a team from a set piece to over the advantage line; he is an extremely gifted player. The Cheetahs have made a good buy.â€ said SA U21 coach Pieter de Villiers.
Johnson grew up in the Western Cape, representing WP right through the age groups before joining the Southern Spears last year.
He now comes into a form Cheetahs squad as they prepare to defend their 2005 ABSA Currie Cup title. The men from Bloemfontein have shown their quality in the first few two games, and are steadily building up momentum for the crunch encounters against the bigger unions. It would appear as if young Johnson has made a wise career move.
The only problem is that Ryno van der Merwe is the incumbent Free State number eight, and so game-time may be limited. Van Der Merwe has proven to be invaluable to the Cheetahs cause this year, and it seems unlikely that coach Rassie Erasmus will replace him with Johnson at the moment.
Something that Erasmus may consider doing is rotating his players over the long season, or even employing a dual squad system ala the All Blacks and most recently, the Sharks.