Leinster are unlike some of the other Irish provinces in that they have tended to look inward for their talent. Former Springbok prop Ollie le Roux did star for them between 2007 and 2009, but generally they haven’t taken the same approach to South African talent that Munster and Ulster did down the years, where the likes of Ruan Pienaar, Damian de Allende, Marcell Coetzee and the man who became an Ireland international and British & Irish Lion, CJ Stander, were popular marquee players.
They’ve changed that trend now though, with 26-year-old Jason Jenkins being lured away from Munster, where his career was beset with injury problems, to play for the team from Dublin. This is his first season based at the RDS Arena, where Leinster host the Cell C Sharks on Saturday night, and the giant lock is already making waves and gaining acceptance for the impact he has had on the strong start the current Vodacom URC log leaders have made to the new season.
While Jenkins, born in Pretoria and educated at St Albans and Pretoria University, only managed to get onto the field 10 times for Munster due to his injury problems, he scored a try on debut against Zebre Parma and followed up with influential performances in subsequent wins over Benetton and Ulster.
His contributions have attracted rave reviews from teammates and coaches, most notably former Wales international hooker and British & Irish Lion, Robin McBryde. Now working as an assistant coach at Leinster, McBryde enthused about Jenkins’ performances when he went in front of the Irish rugby media at the start of the build-up week to the Sharks game.
“He’s been great. He was unlucky with injuries joining us in Leinster. I know the medical team has worked hard with him with regard to a finger injury he had when he arrived,” said McBryde.
“It was very hard for him to hit the ground running right from the word go, without having had those minutes under his belt. Now that he has a clean bill of health, he is playing really well. “Away from the set-piece, he has put shots in around the field.
"He has put himself about. He has also struck up a great relationship with (prop) Michael Ala’alatoa from a scrummaging point of view. He has worked really well with Ross [Molony] in the second-row partnership as well.
“I think he’ll keep on growing, he’ll keep getting better. I think it was the first 80 minute game he played the other week [against Benetton] for two years. Fair dues to him. He has made an impact right from the word go.”
There were eyebrows raised when Jenkins, who was part of the Vodacom Bulls' team that edged out the Cell C Sharks and the other South African franchises in the race for Vodacom Super Rugby Unlocked and the coveted Carling Currie Cup trophy in 2020, was contracted by Leinster as he’d played so little at Munster. However, McBryde reckons he is more than repaying the faith.
“I’m sure they would have done their due diligence with regards to trying to sign somebody, but he sees the game differently. He’s South African. That’s the beauty of having a good mix of Kiwis or wherever players come from. They see the game differently," he said.
“I suppose there’s a little bit of an inside track on what is going to come on Saturday with the Sharks as well. They’re going to ask big questions of us at set-piece time. A big, power-based team running hard around the corner. Hitting things, confrontational, physical. He carries that with him.”