After Ulster Rugby pulled the plug on the signing of Arno Botha due to injury concerns, attention turned to Jean Deysel, the Natal Sharks player who was on loan to Munster at the end of last season.
Deysel arrived at Kingspan Stadium on a two-year contract but injuries have prevented him from reaching our expectations but he still has been a solid addition to the side when he takes to the field..
The 33 year old who made four international appearances for the Springboks, has only played 740 minutes of rugby this season after suffering an eye injury as well as picking up other knocks.
Despite this, his impact was still felt in his ten appearances as he provided a powerful ball carrying option. This was seen in his man of the match performance on his debut against the Cheetahs.
He formed a great partnership in that opening match with Marcell Coetzee – who is experiencing his own problems – and while hindsight is a wonderful thing, I am sure they would have made a difference if both had been fit for most of the season. This was typified with this line break from Deysel after a strong run from Coetzee.
Only Nick Timoney (24) has beaten more defenders than Deysel (16) in the Ulster forward pack while the South African sits eighth out of all Ulster players in that ranking despite not featuring in the top five players with the most minutes.
Not only have Ulster missed him in a ball carrying aspect but also in defence. Deysel has made the most turnovers of any Ulster player with 20 while also has the best minutes per turnover ratio in the Guinness PRO14, according to @OptaJonny.
While he received man of the match against Cheetahs, he was equally as good against Edinburgh in Murrayfield. Ulster were in a rut after successive losses to Edinburgh at home, Scarlets and Cardiff, so not a lot was expected from Ulster in this match.
Deysel secured four turnovers as he inspired the side to secure the bonus point win against all the odds. He is one of the few Ulster players that is renowned as a poacher in the ruck – Rory Best and Chris Henry are the other players however they have not had much game time this year while Sean Reidy to a lesser extent:
The second of his turnovers in this game resulted in a scrum after capitalizing on the Edinburgh ball carrier’s poor body height. He combines well with Matty Rea and Stuart McCloskey in this example:
Ulster rely on this tactic a lot as Iain Henderson and Stuart McCloskey best execute the choke tackle and, while Deysel – along with Timoney and Matty Rea to name a few – will add to this, Ulster need to become more adept and streetwise in the rucks.
Jean Deysel perhaps has not had the impact that people were expecting due to his time on the sidelines. However he has shown that he can be of benefit to this side. Hopefully next season we’ll see more of Deysel and I’m sure a greater impact, both metaphorically and literally, will be felt.