Thursday, 14th December 2006 at 11:16 pm

Welcome home

It’s one of the more extraordinary stories of the year - Kevin Pietersen renouncing England and returning to South Africa would sit in a similar bracket of surprise. Largely off the rugby radar for the last few years, Bob Skinstad signing with the Sharks might have been the stuff of whispered rumour over the last couple of months, but still dropped a few jaws when officially announced. So why is Bob heading home? A successful business, a young family and a new life in London suggested Skinstad was firmly entrenched in England; clearly something powerful has drawn the former Bok skipper home. He has roots in the area, certainly, and the brand of rugby Dick Muir’s side produced in 2006 sits well with the Skinstad rugby philosophy. But coming back into Super 14 (a competition teeming with large brutes only too willing to spend 80 minutes kicking Skinstad’s head in) isn’t a challenge to be taken on lightly, and Bob will have thought about this long and hard. Is the desire to play in the World Cup really burning that strong? Or is there another motivation behind the return? It won’t be a universally acclaimed comeback - Skinstad in South Africa was at times akin to George Best in prohibition America - but it will be scrutinised furiously. Glorious failure or remarkable return, the Bob Skinstad story is suddenly poised for a finish few of us would have predicted when he set off for the frozen north. Skinstad himself may well have fallen into that same category when he left South Africa; the Sharks number eight jersey will be hot property in 2007.

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