Panto villain Hanno Dirksen happy to feed off the boo-boys
POLICE were once said to be looking for an individual with a grudge against Craig Bellamy after the Wales footballer had his car vandalised.
The joke was they'd narrowed the list of suspects down to 250,000 people.
It came to mind in Llanelli last Friday when almost all the Scarlets contingent in the 14,111-strong crowd seemed to have an issue with Ospreys wing Hanno Dirksen.
They booed him whenever he had the ball; they cheered ironically when he had a try disallowed; they howled their approval if he made an error.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
His crime was to get involved in a grappling match with Liam Williams which entered the realms of judo. It is uncertain if either player achieved an ippon, but the penalty award went the Ospreys' way for an unrelated home offence. Dan Biggar landed the kick and the crowd vented their anger at Dirksen.
He had the final word when he dived over for a game-settling try five minutes for time.
Since then, there has been talk of "Dirty Dirksen" on Scarlets supporters' websites. Unsurprisingly, he was only an outside bet to win the latest hero of the week award in the Llanelli Star newspaper.
Shove they neighbour only tends to go down well west of the Loughor if it's an Osprey on the receiving end.
There again, it could be argued that the catcalls in Llanelli were a compliment, the crowd seeing Dirksen as a dangerous player worth jeering. That he was able to silence the boo-boys says a lot about his character. He wasn't going to be heckled off his game.
It called to mind Gavin Henson in Argentina in 2004 and a toilet roll being hurled from the Tucuman terraces as the then glamour boy of Welsh rugby was attempting his first kick at goal.
Henson not only put the ball between the posts but went on to land seven more, not missing once. That's what good players do, let talent settle arguments.
Filling the role of pantomime villain for an evening certainly didn't faze Dirksen. "It's quite nice to have fans shouting like that because it makes you want to try even harder and show you how good you are, I guess," he said.
"It's always great to have a near-full stadium. It adds more to the game and makes you more determined, if the fans are behind you or against you. It was good last week — I loved it."
Dirksen is carrying a weight on his shoulders this season as the Ospreys' main strike weapon after the departures of Shane Williams, Tommy Bowe and Nikki Walker, Test wings who boasted 130 tries for the region between them.
He has responded with two tries in four games, including a sharp solo effort against Ulster, and in no way seems bothered by the challenge of walking in the footsteps of greats such as Williams and Bowe. In fact, he is relishing the extra responsibility and aims to carve out his own distinctive identity at the region.
"I don't really think about following in the footsteps of Tommy and Shane," said the 21-year-old.
"I'm trying to create Hanno Dirksen really. My focus is on playing well and trying to win."
Born in South Africa, Dirksen has been in Swansea since 2009, arriving via America, where he had been living. But problems with his visa meant his residency period in Wales only started in 2011.
But he qualifies to pull on the red jersey in January 2014 and will be up for the challenge, even if he doesn't spend every waking hour thinking about it.
"It would be awesome to play international rugby," he said.
"But it is quite far away. If I don't play well, what point is there even thinking about it.
"I'm just focusing on this season and trying to have a better campaign than last term."
Dirksen is set to come up against a rising star of Munster rugby in Swansea on Saturday, Simon Zebo, but he won't be worrying about the prospect. "I don't pay much attention to my opponents. Whoever it is going to be, it will be a tough game." Leave the worrying to Zebo, then.