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‘The greatest Stormers of all time’

‘The greatest Stormers of all time’

While there is no doubt he is an icon for the Stormers, Brok Harris’ legendary status will be taken to another level when the South African franchise face the Dragons this Friday.

Harris, who played his 150th game for the Cape Town-based Stormers two weeks ago, has also played 143 games for the Dragons.

He is as iconic a figure on Newport’s Rodney Parade as he is in Cape Town, whether at the old Newlands Rugby Stadium or its new home, the luxurious Cape Town Stadium.

It can’t be lost on anyone that, as the United Rugby Championship celebrates ‘Kids Round’, the biggest cheer at Rodney Parade on Friday night will be for the ‘granddaddy’ of the competition, with Harris already past his 39th birthday and close to the big 40 .

The popular Harris is hosting an evening billed as ‘Brok Harris & Friends’ at Rodney Parade on Wednesday 8 May, where Harris and many of his teammates, from the Dragons and from South Africa, will entertain locals with stories from his rich rugby journey.

Harris played for the Dragons for seven seasons and returned to Cape Town to relax. The opposite is true and he is in his 58th game for the Stormers since parting ways with the Welsh side.

When it comes to the Dragons supporters, rugby in the region and his love for the place, there will never be a farewell for Harris, and this weekend’s trip is his most special in a packed agenda.

It would not be out of place for Harris to play the first 40 minutes for Dragons and the second 40 minutes for the Stormers and for the occasion be a testament to a player who has been remarkable in the front row for both teams.

Few embody the essence of service and longevity as well as Stormers prop Harris, who at the age of 39 is inspiring his team-mates on the park while also preparing for the move into the coaching box.

Harris was a front-row warhorse in the Stormers’ pack, carrying not only the weight of the scrums but the mantle of leadership in a crucial run in the United Rugby Championship.

As the Stormers attempt to secure a place in the URC’s top eight, Harris has continued to fumble and in his past five matches a match has averaged more than 60 minutes.

When Harris parted ways with Dragons in June 2021 after a seven-year spell at Newport, the veteran campaigner thought it was the end of his playing days.

After all, he was 36 and had worked a long shift on the rumbling coalfield.

Some three years later he has won the URC title and is still going strong as a first-team regular for the Stormers.

In a season marked by the absence of key players and an injury crisis in the front row, the grizzled Harris has risen to the occasion, sharing captaincy duties and being a conduit between management and players on matchdays.

After losing Springbok pro Steven Kitshoff to a move to Ulster before the season got underway, the Stormers have also sidelined Sti Sithole, Lizo Gqoboka, Ali Vermaak and Kwenzo Blose at the same time.

Although many of the Stormers’ props have been injured this season, Harris has stood stronger at every challenge, scrumming more powerfully and staying on the park longer than players half his age.

His five consecutive starts, in the most recent five Stormers games, include clashes with Ulster and Edinburgh and a Champions Cup play-off against Stade Rochelais in Cape Town.

Competing against international tighthead props in Ireland’s Tom O’Toole and Scotland’s WP Nel, Harris has more than held his own during this run and has continued to show the value of a crafty veteran in the scrum.

“Brok, in my opinion, will go down in history as one of the greatest Stormers of all time,” said head coach John Dobson.

“If you were to set up a Stormers Hall of Fame with ten names, Brok would be up there with all the Springboks like Jean (de Villiers), Schalk (Burger) and Jaque (Fourie).

“He’s got to be the most popular Stormer,” Dobson added.

“I never knew Brok, I had not coached him because I was still in the juniors when he left for Wales. Being able to coach and get to know him has been one of the highlights of my career.

“We are trying to convince him to stay longer, but he may switch to coaching sooner rather than later. He already assists young people under the age of twenty, leaves our practice as a player and immediately starts working as a scrum coach with the junior team. It is an incredible achievement.”

Harris’ role in helping to nurture tight end Neethling Fouche – who attended his first Springbok camp in March – as well as newcomers Sazi Sandi, Lee-Marvin Mazibuko and Kwenzo Blose, underlines his commitment to taking it forward and the to ensure the next step. generation of Stormers flourishes after his tenure.

“I’m so happy that my (roommate) Neethling is part of the Springbok setup,” Harris said.

“He deserves it and I am proud to have been part of his journey towards fulfilling his call for the alignment camp.

“As for Sazi, Lee-Marvin and Kwenzo, they have all grown tremendously under my mentorship, and I have no doubt that they have bright futures ahead of them.”

Harris’ passion for the sport and desire to pass on knowledge marks a new chapter for him at the Stormers after making his debut in 2006.

“It has always been my plan to get into coaching and I am grateful for the opportunity to have one foot in the coaching box and the other on the playing field.

“Having insight into what’s happening in the coaching engine has been an eye-opener for me from a player’s perspective. I have participated in a number of coaching meetings and I am impressed with what is really happening behind the scenes, from a detail and planning perspective.”

As it is, instead of putting his feet up and watching the young players have all the fun, the Potchefstroom-raised powerhouse has discussed with Dobson the possibility of extending his career for another season.

“My love for the game is what drives me.

“Playing my 150th marks me as the first Stormers player to reach this milestone and is a notable highlight of my career.”