Mark Stcherbina has signed a two year contract with Cardiff. The ex-NSW Waratahs player turned out for Australia A before enjoying two seasons with Biarritz in the south of France. Despite staring in the 75-25 demolition of Cardiff and scoring a try in that game, Stcherbina has chose the capital city club over other offers, mainly because of his desire to play regular first team rugby.
Despite signing a new two year contract as recently as March with Northampton, “Stitch” felt compelled to move on. Carlos Spencer’s arrival in the midlands would mean that the club could fall foul of Premier Rugby’s rules on only one overseas player allowed on the pitch at any time during a game.
Last season, the hardened centre was a regular for the Saints, starting 29 games during the season – more than any other player in the squad. When playing in Australia, Stcherbina developed a reputation as a utility back, so it will be interesting to see in what position he features for Cardiff next season. At the Waratahs, he was one of the quickest players in the squad.
The versatile centre has represented his country at many levels – from Australian schoolboys (which he captained) and Australian Sevens, all the way through to Australia A. He is one of the few players to make three Australian schoolboy teams and captained the team in 1994 and 1995. He played most of his Super 12 rugby on the wing, and only really switched to centre when he moved to France.
When Stitch played for Biarritz against Cardiff, he excelled at offloading the ball in the tackle, working well in tandem with Cassin (another player with rugby league experience). Such skills could prove a huge bonus to Cardiff if the new recruit’s strength can partner the rejuvinated pace of Jamie Robinson at outside centre.
So are there any similarities with Cardiff’s other recent southern hemisphere centre, Pieter Muller? Well, both enjoyed a brief spell playing Rugby League, with Stcherbina playing for the Manly Cannons side in the 2002-3 season.
Like Cardiff’s other closed season signing Xavier Rush, Stcherbina has a reputation for doing the basics well and is a model of stability. In a youthful midfield of talented but sometimes wayward players, this could be another excellent signing from Dai Young.
Interestingly, Stcherbina could become EU qualified within a year as he will then have been playing rugby in Europe for four years. He will become the second centre to join Cardiff from Northampton – following in the footsteps of Matt Allen. If Stcherbina proved to be the 100%-er that Allen was, then Northampton’s loss is very much Cardiff’s gain.
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