If newly signed Cheetahs centre Johann Sadie continues to believe his own hype, he will forever live in that precarious and ever contracting space between potential and greatness. A second chance awaits him in Bloemfontein but, like with most things in life, there is no guarantee of first team action.
How did a talented SA under-20 player, who had featured in all provincial and national age-group teams since under-12, end up clubless and so desperate that he was willing to settle for a pay cut at a union that battles to finish in the top half of the Super Rugby table?
Many would have thought by now that Sadie would be basking in the delight of being the first Springbok cap recipients under the Heyneke Meyer era with the likes of Marcell Coetzee, Eben Etzebeth, Juandre Kruger and Jacques Potgieter.
Why did he suddenly leave the Bulls, a hugely successful union domestically and internationally, barely six months into (what was supposed to be) a lucrative contract.
To understand Sadie’s conundrum, you must first understand his time at Western Province and by extension, the Stormers.
At Newlands he was the brightest young spark waiting in the wings of the one of the greatest Springbok centre pairings – that of Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie. His first team game time was therefore limited in Super Rugby but during the Vodacom and Currie Cups he was often the star of the show.
I remember a game between the Stormers and the Blues in Auckland in which the 23-year-old, alongside Juan de Jongh, starred in a brilliant display to dispose of the then title challengers. If there is one game that can show you what Sadie can do, what the Stormers had been nesting him for, it is this one.
De Jongh, to make an example, waited patiently for the chance to establish himself at any of the two centre positions even when he had had a brilliant season standing in for De Villiers, who was playing overseas, in 2010. When De Villiers returned last year to partner with old pal Fourie, De Jongh was relegated to the cold bench. This year De Jongh picks himself onto the team.
But things didn’t go as planned for Sadie or moved as quickly for him as he would have liked. First team action at the Stormers seemed a distant pipe dream. It is rumoured that through the sheer ridiculousness of the nature of his demands when negotiation a new Western Province contract, including of course the guarantee of first team action, the union begrudgingly, yet necessarily, had to let him go. Someone even suggested he demanded that he not share a hotel room with a team-mate on tour.
And well, believing his own hype, he took a contract with the Bulls, which to be fair were in desperate need of a quality outside centre last year. Instead of blossoming, he has lived in the shadow of the lanky frame of JJ Engelbrecht, also a former Stormer.
Sadie claims the structures at the Bulls didn’t suit him therefore he had to force an early release on his two-year contract. If I was him, I’d have gone back to Allister Coetzee, apologised and asked for my old job back.
Few players who have ever really been something on the rugby field have never had to wait for their turn to own a position in the starting fifteen every week and as talented as Sadie is, he’s just going to bounce from one union to the next looking for “guaranteed game time”.
It will be interesting to see if Cheetahs fans will value the potential in Sadie over the commitment of local hero Robert Ebersohn (a player that plays his nads off every week on the grassless Bloemfontein Stadium pitch without expecting much in return but to put smiles on the rugby mad oupa’s)
Now we wait to see if Sadie’s expectations from the Cheetahs will be met or if he’ll meet theirs.
I say this almost like a friend from varsity who has just walked in on you while you’re lying face first on the concrete floor of your dorm after yet another night of binge drinking: Get your ish together man!
Or you’ll always be one of those kids we pub critics speak about that could have been Springbok greats but fizzled into nothing in the end. The country is crawling with those kids (and those pub critics by the way), we don’t need another one.