Sharks release Russell

Brent Russell will play for the Stormers and Western Province next season after the Sharks freed him from his contract on Thursday.

The Sharks claimed in a press release that they “didn’t want to kill his spirit and love for the game” by keeping him in Durban. The fact that it took the union so long to reach a decision makes a mockery of their attempts to claim the moral high ground.

Russell has openly expressed his frustration with the Sharks in recent weeks, saying he was unhappy sitting on the bench and not having a defined role in the team. However, the Sharks were reluctant to let him go to WP, in case he came back to haunt Dick Muir’s side at some point in the future.

The Pocket Rocket now returns to Cape Town where he began his career with Province’s U21 side as a flyhalf.

Russell could make a massive difference to the Stormers in the Super 14 next year if the coaching team gives him the No 10 jersey. In his preferred position he would be the perfect player to spark a backline that will include the likes of Jean de Villiers Gio Aplon, Sireli Naqelevuki, Conrad Jantjies, Breyton Paulse and Joe Pietersen.

For the record, this is what Sharks CEO Brian van Zyl had to say about the decison:

“It was not an easy decision and one which we vacillated over for weeks. It would have been easy to keep him contracted ‘in case we needed him’, warming the bench, and deprive him of opportunity, but in the best interest of the Sharks and South African rugby, and emotions aside, we decided it would only be fair to allow Brent to seek game time in another province.

“The decision was not taken lightly, nor without deep evaluation, but with the bigger picture in mind, management and coaching concluded that we simply cannot accommodate him for 80 minutes a game in our future plans.”